A petition is calling for better safety on Lower Mainland transit.
Following the fatal stabbing of 17-year-old Ethan Bespflug, a petition was started by Dominique Curtis on change.org to make buses, SkyTrains and transit stops and stations safer.
The petition was started about a week ago and by Saturday (April 22), there were more than 6,500 online signatures.
“This is just one, of many violent or deadly incidents on TransLink buses and this must stop. Public confidence in transit safety, particularly at night, has been shattered,” reads the petition.
TransLink, in an emailed statement to Black Press Media, said transit police have increased their presence and specialty teams have been redeployed to frontline patrols, with additional resources also called in.
Metro Vancouver Transit Police is also in the process of adding 24 new community safety officer, who will have specialized training in mental health awareness, crisis de-escalation, legal studies, traffic safety, and community policing.
“We’ve seen, I think, around a 30 per cent increase in those mental-related incidents over the years, despite an actual 21-per-cent drop in our crime rate,” he said. “We want to make sure we have a police force that’s appropriate for what we’re seeing out there.”
He added the violence that is seen on the system is “not something that police alone are going to be able to solve.”
He said at peak hours there are 1,100 buses running, dozens of SkyTrain stations, 90 SkyTrain cars in service at any moment.
“There’s not enough officers to put a single person on every single one of those vehicles. I think we’ve got to recognize it’s going to be a multi-pronged strategy. Are police one of those prongs? Absolutely.”
Quinn said TransLink also wants riders to know about its text service 87-77-77 that will put them directly in contact with a police officer.
In Surrey alone there were three stabbings on transit in three weeks.
Earlier this month a man was stabbed on a bus in Surrey in an alleged terrorist attack. Abdul Aziz Kawam is charged with attempted murder, assault causing bodily harm, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon, all in association with terrorist group the Islamic State.
The victim suffered some vocal-chord damage, but the knife did not strike any major tendons or arteries, and doctors are hopeful he can make a full recovery.
Then on April 11, Bespflug was fatally stabbed while riding a bus in the 9900-block of King George Boulevard.
Kaiden Mintenko, 20, of Burnaby has been charged with second-degree murder of Bespflug, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team announced this week.
And then in the early hours of April 17, a man in his 20s was stabbed in the abdomen at Surrey Central SkyTrain Station. A suspect has since been arrested.
Elsewhere in the Lower Mainland, there have been several other incidents of violence.
This week, there was a shooting in broad daylight in New Westminster, just up the road from New Westminster SkyTrain Station.
Around noon on April 18, police responded to a shooting in the 700-block of Carnarvon Street. Police say a man is being treated for non-life-threatening injuries, while two suspects are in custody.
Police say a suspect approached a group of people and pointed a firearm in their direction, and repeatedly fired at the group before fleeing the area.
In Burnaby, transit police are investigating after a man allegedly assaulted passengers on a SkyTrain and then “attempted to slash” one of the officers with a knife. It happened on the SkyTrain’s Millenium Line on April 10.
Later that day, New Westminster Police responded to a stabbing at Columbia Station after an altercation between two groups. Police say the two groups didn’t know each other.
Police are now looking for the three suspects: two men and a woman.
– With files from The Canadian Press and Tom Zytaruk