Undercover sting nabs LRT bad guys

Undercover sting nabs LRT bad guys

Eight repeat offenders banned from city transit system in ETS security crackdown

Elise Stolte, The Edmonton Journal Published: Wednesday, March 19, 2008

EDMONTON - A pilot project that had undercover police follow regular offenders using the transit system resulted in eight of the worst being banned from transit property, police say. "(The officers would) wait for them to do something wrong, be there and take action right on the spot," Insp. Brian Nowlan said Tuesday at the Coliseum LRT Station.

About 50 per cent of the crime on the city's public transit network comes from repeat offenders, he said. The pilot project lasted one month and focused on the Coliseum Station, a hot spot for both police and transit officials. Most of the crime that happens of the LRT and bus system involves passengers who are intoxicated or use bad language, rather than serious assaults.

Decreasing annoying disturbances will bring a better sense of safety, Nowlan said. "This is just the tip of the iceberg," he said of the pilot project. "You're going to be seeing more of this." The pilot project was also part of a transit security effort to be more proactive. They introduced a computer tool that analyzes crime trends and forecasts where and when crime is likely to happen. Security staff are scheduled to be at those places during those times.

The tool was introduced in January 2006. Since then, transit security has seen its number of proactive incidents -- where officers are on scene before trouble happens -- climb from an average 75 per month to an average 225 per month. Reactive events -- where officers respond to an incident after it happens -- have been gradually decreasing and now stand at about 60 per month.

Edmonton Transit plans to formally evaluate how the environments in bus and LRT stations contribute to crime, said acting director Ron Gabruck.

They've also launched an advertising campaign. "Safety is everyone's business," Gabruck said. "There's a number for you to call and we will react to that."

Nowlan said the Coliseum pilot project was so successful it will be expanded to more locations in the transit system. This doesn't require more officers, it simply requires co-ordinated work from both organizations.

Const. Mike Russell was one of the officers who stopped shaving, donned worn jeans and a baseball cap, and spent four nights a week blending into the crowd. "It was a lot of fun," he said. "Definitely a change of pace."

When transit security saw one of the target individuals walk into the station, Russell would be notified and would then follow and watch.

The targets were between 16 and 60. Police dealt with some of them 110 times in the last year or two, Russell estimated. During the pilot project, officers issued 250 tickets and 101 warrants. They charged 10 repeat offenders and eight of them were permanently banned.

Because the ban is tied to a criminal offences, an offender found on transit property can face further criminal prosecution.

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©The Edmonton Journal 2008

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