Transit Watch provides more eyes and ears for police

Volunteer patrols "observe and report" what's going on near transit locations in Surrey.

Volunteers with a new program called Transit Watch will patrol areas around transit locations and report anything suspicious or dangerous they see. They have been patrolling Surrey SkyTrain stations and Newton bus loop since late January. The concept was that of SFU student Jeremy Pearce (below).

You may have already seen them around SkyTrain stations or near the Newton bus loop.

Wearing green vests and jackets with a reflective logo reading Community Safety Volunteer, they’ve been doing things like scanning licence plates for stolen vehicles and alerting police if they see intoxicated people or drug dealers in action.

The mostly student crews are part of the newly established Transit Watch program, a partnership between the Metro Vancouver Transit Police and the Surrey Crime Prevention Society.

“We think it’s something that’s truly going to make a difference to Surrey,” said Anne Drennan, media spokesperson for Metro Vancouver Transit Police.

Patrols began in late January and there are now about three dozen trained post-secondary students on the job three days per week. So far, they’ve been covering the areas around the Scott Road, Surrey Central, Gateway and King George SkyTrain stations, as well as the Newton bus loop. They do not enter fare paid zones, but keep an eye out for anything dangerous or of concern.

Jeremy Pearce, a criminology student at Simon Fraser University, is the brain trust behind the concept. Having crossed paths with crime – and the resulting fear – in the past, he knew he and fellow students could play a role in improving safety near university campuses and the surrounding community.

“We can provide the extra eyes and ears of the police,” Pearce said.

Karen Reid Sidhu, executive director of Surrey Crime Prevention Society, said volunteers also do vehicle audits to see if anything has been left in cars that could entice thieves, and inform the public how they can report incidents (For example, Transit Police dispatch can be contacted by text message at 87-77-77). But while the Transit Watch patrols may witness criminal activity, they do not intervene, only “observe and report” to police.

Sidhu said the program remains in the pilot stage, but will likely expand based on need.

Quoting Sir Robert Peel, Transit Police Chief Neil Dubord said, “The public are the police and the police are the public,” and noted one of the key factors of community policing is people.

“We have people here who want to make a difference in the City of Surrey and have come forward to be able to do that,” he said.