Focusing on LRT Safety

This past week at the Community and Public Services committee, Council discussed LRT station safety and the consistent issues with crime occurring within and around LRT stations.

The Malmo and Southgate areas have been strongly affected by this, with people believed to be coming off the train to commit theft from cars and houses. Numerous break-ins have been reported recently, and the whole city is feeling the impacts of this issue. To mitigate further crime, I asked for a report from Administration that outlines and updates us on LRT Station Safety and options to reduce crime. In the report that came back, there was a great deal of talk about design. The layout of a building can have a surprising impact on the safety of those who use it on a daily basis. Areas that have lower visibility, like corridors and dark corners, low lighting, lack of maintenance, and blind spots in security cameras can catalyze crime as it offers opportunity and space for illegal activity.

It’s important to know that steps have already been implemented to mitigate this, and the issue hasn’t fallen on deaf ears. We as a Council and the Administration have called it by name and acknowledged its impacts. Security measures have been taken to maintain the safety of LRT riders across Edmonton. 65 Transit Peace Officers work in collaboration with 9 EPS officers, called “LRT Beats,” to patrol stations consistently to ensure safety and limit crime committed by way of transit. Since the City has implemented this, violent crime has dropped in half. While this is a massive step in the right direction, and it’s good to see significant progress, there’s still a long way to go.

Digging deeper, the underlying issue here is the effect of addiction and drugs on our city. Crime is ongoing to obtain access to drugs, which uncovers an even deeper concern. This problem illustrates a larger, systemic issue of lacking mental health and housing services. Those committing crime through LRT access, especially in the Malmo/Southgate areas, are not criminals for the sake of being criminals. Proper services have not been provided and/or utilized and people haven’t been helped properly, so crime spikes as a result.

It’s time to focus on reality and tackle the root issues, while simultaneously addressing what we can now, such as station design, maintenance, and better lighting and security. These are necessary steps to maintain safety right now, but unless we tackle the deeper concerns, and show that we’re taking it seriously, the outcome likely won’t change in the future.

I’m committed to being deeply engaged in this area as it is one of the biggest issues facing our city today. For now, we’re engaging with Malmo and Southgate through a local net team formed to gather community input regarding this issue to determine the best way to mitigate crime in the area. In fact, I spent 5 hours with the Southwest Division Staff Sergeant on Thursday of last week during a ride-along engaging on this concern. I’m not letting this go, and the EPS are not letting this go. We’ll continue to work together and stay involved in order to mitigate this issue that affects everyone in our city.

UPDATE: On Tuesday, September 18th, a young person was attacked on the South Campus LRT platform. I am deeply concerned about this issue of safety in our city. Edmontonians should be able to feel safe in our city, and especially so using City services. I wish the young person a speedy recovery, and will do everything I can to make sure this doesn’t happen again.