Crime rate drops on transit system

Chief says force will still be relevant after activation of SkyTrain fare gates

Transit Police Chief Neil Dubord.

Crime against passengers and staff on TransLink’s transit system fell 17 per cent in the first half of the year, according to Transit Police.

The change reflects a drop in reports of theft, assaults and sexual assaults.

Property crime on the system, including vandalism, dropped four per cent from 2011.

Chief Neil Dubord acknowledged crime rates are generally falling in North America, but called the drop in reported crime significant and noted it was accompanied by a 10 per cent improvement in surveyed passengers’ perception of safety on the system.

Transit Police investigations led to more than 500 charge recommendations to Crown counsel in the first six months of 2012.

Officers also arrested 530 fugitives wanted in other jurisdictions on outstanding warrants.

The force conducted 1.4 million fare checks in the first nine months of 2012 as TransLink stepped up efforts to reduce fare evasion.

Dubord rejected suggestions that the 167-officer force – whose budget is about $29 million – will have much less to do once fare gates now being installed at SkyTrain stations are activated next year.

“Once fare gates go in our goal is to continue to protect our passengers,” he said, adding that will likely mean more time patrolling buses.

Officers will still need to conduct fare checks on SkyTrain inside the gated areas, he added, because some some fare evaders will come through the gates two or three at a time or crawl under or over the paddle turnstiles.

He rejected suggestions from critics that the force could be dismantled and its duties handled jointly by existing RCMP and municipal police forces.

He said the original case for a standalone force remains valid – that shared coverage by other forces would end up being spotty and public safety would suffer.

Dubord said the force has redoubled its efforts to control costs.

Improved scheduling has halved overtime costs, he said, adding that’s expected to save $300,000 to $400,000 this year.