B.C. Transit seeks to boost security powers

Supervisors could fine transit offenders under proposed plan

B.C. Transit’s Bill Shearer

B.C. Transit’s Bill Shearer

B.C. Transit is looking to add special constables to its security ranks in the Capital Region.

Transit supervisors may also one day have the authority to issue tickets for transit offences.

When transit-related offences – from spitting and other assaults to verbal threats and property damage – are heard in the courts, it’s often the first time Stephen Anderson, B.C. Transit’s senior manager of corporate safety and security for the province, learns the details of Crown counsel’s case and the police investigation.

But as special provincial constables, Anderson and his three-member security team would be able to access police files on transit crimes, provide additional evidence and help build strong cases for stiffer punishments.

B.C. Transit plans to submit its application for special constable powers to Solicitor General Shirley Bond in late November.

“We give files (to police), but we also want to see their files and see what they’re doing,” Anderson said, adding that having a badge would allow special constables to walk into a police station and request police documents.

“There may be an incident that happened out there today, that happened at a bus stop or an exchange (that might only be reported to police but) that we might know nothing about.”

Special constables could help link transit crimes such as graffiti vandalism, which would otherwise be treated as isolated incidents “and it’s all forgotten,” Anderson said.

“But we’re still left with cleaning, putting all the time, resources, money into doing that and not had a chance to present that as part of the package,” Anderson said, adding their enhanced abilities would allow the team to be more proactive in addressing problem cases and repeat offenders.

“We can then do what is necessary to ensure that one occurrence doesn’t become many occurrences,” Anderson said.

The peace officers would be able to enforce the Criminal Code of Canada, but would not spend their time patrolling transit routes in the province.

“We (would be) more investigators than routine patrollers,” said Anderson, who was a municipal police officer in England for 15 years, and a transit cop for 11 years for the London Underground.

If the team receives its badges, two more security staff members may be hired, possibly in 2012 or 2013.

To further boost his security team’s powers, Anderson plans in 2012 to ask Blair Lekstrom, B.C.’s minister of transportation and infrastructure, for a legislative change to the B.C. Transit Act, granting transit supervisors in the Capital Region the authority to issue 40 transit fines.

That power might discourage more riders from engaging in offensive or aggressive behaviour, said Bill Shearer, B.C. Transit’s chief transit supervisor. Fines range from $58 to $173.

That power would also free up police from having to respond to hundreds of calls each year for minor infractions, Anderson said, adding police alone currently have the ability to levy transit fines.

“We would be able to deal with smaller incidents at the time and (prevent) those smaller incidents from (escalating) to anything more, and then to avoid the court or policing processes because it stays within B.C. Transit,” Anderson said. “We don’t want to abuse our relationship (with police).”

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