Lessons learned: Calgary police say new enforcement efforts on CTrains are underway

Calgary police say they understand people don’t feel safe at CTrains stations and promise a major enforcement effort starting in September, building on their first system-wide blitz this month .

For four days before the Stampede, undercover officers tracked drug transactions at stations. Together with undercover officers and Transit peace officers, uniformed police subsequently managed to lay 86 criminal charges, mostly for drug trafficking.

They also executed 327 warrants, served 216 summonses, recovered three stolen bikes, disrupted a robbery in progress, canceled four overdoses, and seized $30,000 worth of drugs (crack cocaine, fentanyl, methamphetamine, gabapentin, psilocybin, and ketamine).

The police did not lay charges for simple possession of drugs.

The absolute numbers surprised Insp. Scott Todd, who oversaw the blitz.

“For us, it was a bit unexpected,” he said. “Coming into the fall, you’ll see more operations similar to this. We’re trying to identify the most effective times, the most effective locations.”

Todd said the effort has focused on finding better ways for police and transit security to leverage each other’s strengths — law enforcement officers with their deep knowledge of security actors. platform and the police with its increased legal mandate to arrest and prosecute. It will help, he says.

“I sometimes take the train, like many people who have been the subject of (CBC Calgary transit safety) articles. I understand that. I understand the feeling of not feeling safe sometimes” , did he declare. “It’s very, very unfortunate, that’s how customers of the transit system feel.”

Insp. Scott Todd oversaw a four-day, system-wide campaign to target criminal activity on trains. (Elise Stolte/CBC)

New role and training for safety

On Tuesday, City Council will receive an update on Calgary Transit’s new safety efforts. This is in addition to new police efforts. According to a report released ahead of the meeting, Transit plans to increase the number of peace officers by 25 percent, from 113 to 141.

But it will take time because some of these 113 existing jobs are vacant. Transit is in hiring mode and will need 25 weeks to train each new agent.

Transit also plans to hire 31 dedicated transit security guards, who will have 13 weeks of training and more responsibilities than current contract guards.

“Currently, contract guards are a visual deterrent,” Transit spokesman Stephen Tauro said. “Transit security guards will have better training. They will be highly trained guards with a bit more authority than contract guards. They will be equipped to handle the removal of unwanted people in the event of security issues and concerns. “

“They will also be in direct contact with law enforcement officers,” Tauro said.

    Two Calgary Police Service officers stand next to the open hatch of a vehicle on Macleod Trail while two people wait for the CTrain at the Victoria Park Stampede station.
Two Calgary police officers stand next to a vehicle on Macleod Trail as two people wait for a CTrain at the Victoria Park/Stampede station in this file photo. (Julie Debeljak/CBC)

The report to council says transit is also increasing the number of inspectors, sergeants and dispatchers. The staff increase will cost about $6 million per year.

Transit Peace Officers also have an existing partnership with Alpha House Street Outreach Teams.

Many Calgary transit riders say drug use and disorder have increased on CTrain platforms and even in railcars. This creates an unpredictable environment. Police have also seen an increase in crime.

Calgary Transit says 20 security guards are stationed at LRT stations across the city each day to provide a “visual presence” for people who would rather speak to a person than use a help button. (Lucie Edwardson/CBC)

As part of CBC Calgary’s community focus on transit safety, hundreds of passengers and former passengers have texted us, with many saying they are no longer taking the train. Some take the car, take the bus even when it increases the journey time, or stay at home.

“A step bigger than I thought”

These residents offered a variety of solutions, including law enforcement and fare barriers or turnstiles. They also want to act on the underlying causes of social disorder – homelessness and substance abuse.

We reached out to several of them to find out what they thought of the new plan.

“It’s a bigger step than I thought, especially the time frame. I thought it would be years before they started cracking down,” Kraven Nightangel said.

Nightangel is on AISH and does not drive. So when he stopped taking the train, it meant he was no longer visiting some friends downtown and had to rely on others to take him to his appointments.

“But there are too many people doing drugs. I didn’t feel safe,” he said. “Nothing specific has ever happened. But seeing literally, right in front of me, people doing drugs, for me, that’s really hard because I grew up with it. My mom was into drugs.”

The new policing approach “seems like an incredible direction,” added Jaycee Scott, who takes the 7:30 a.m. train for a shipping receiving job with a grocery chain. “It actually looks like the police are taking the issue seriously to me.

“A lot of people are really nervous about taking the train almost every day. It’s a step in the right direction. But the underlying cause will still be there. Lots of drug use.”

Calgary Transit said ridership is now at 70% of pre-pandemic levels.

The frequency of buses and trains is still decreasing. Transit says it is at 80% of pre-pandemic service levels. He hopes to raise that figure to 90% in September. The council’s report says reaching full pre-pandemic levels is one of four key elements of the recovery strategy.

Transport security

This is part of our community project exploring safety issues on Calgary Transit. Read all the stories in the series so far at cbc.ca/transit.

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