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Calgary police reveal further details about recent undercover CTrain drug trafficking operation

Calgary police have revealed more details about a two-week undercover drug trafficking operation at CTrain stations late last year in a briefing report prepared for the Calgary Police Commission.

It’s all part of an ongoing effort to better understand and tackle transit-related crime and improve public safety as police shift their approach on the issue.

According to the report, of the 27 people facing 212 criminal charges from the investigation, one was a youth and two were teenagers — one of whom had been reported missing.

That teen was found to be with a man who was ordered to stay away from children after being charged with possession of child pornography in 2015.

Fourteen of the 27 people charged had no fixed address, said the report.

“Certainly I think it does underscore the complexity of what’s going on in public spaces generally,” said Calgary police chief Mark Neufeld.

A police officer and an outreach worker talk to a person in a CTrain station shelter.
Calgary Police Service is working to address the complexity of social disorder in Calgary by working more closely alongside social service agencies. (Calgary Police Service)

Neufeld says the Calgary Police Service is trying to address that complexity by working more closely alongside social service agencies to provide vulnerable Calgarians the supports they need, with the ultimate goal of getting them out of the system.

“I think what we see now is more nuanced in the system where we sort of understand who is vulnerable and needs assistance and who is criminal and continuing a lifestyle of behaviours that needs to be deterred.”

But the report says it’s too early to tell if changes made in the so-called “system of care” will improve the situation long-term.

Transit riders feeling safer

The report reveals police saw a rise in violent transit-related crime last year.

It said violent crime on transit increased by 15 per cent in 2023, compared with the previous year.

However, transit riders made fewer calls for help related to transit overall.

Police say that could be because on-site officers are dealing with the issues or are making those calls instead of citizens. Officer-generated calls were up 91 per cent from the previous year, said the report.

Meanwhile, a survey done by the City of Calgary earlier this month suggests Calgarians are feeling safer while using transit, compared with six months ago. For example, 72 per cent of respondents reported they felt safe riding the train during the day — up from 67 per cent last May.

Officials attributed that improvement, in part, to dozens of new peace officers hired to patrol the system as part of the public transit safety strategy.

Mike Mahar, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 583, agrees that dedicated funding and more on-site officers are starting to improve the situation.

“Now my concern is that it be designed and funded sustainably,” said Mahar.

“We’ve got a long ways to go.”

‘We’re never going to get rid of it’

For Mount Royal University criminal justice professor Doug King, more visible boots on the ground is key to deterring crime on transit. 

But he says the reality in a metropolitan city like Calgary is that crime will never go away.

“It’s important that the general public understands … we can reduce it, but we’re never going to get rid of it,” said King.

“Crime will always be there and it will always come back and this kind of social disorder and unsafe behaviour is going to return if we don’t just remain diligent with visible presence of officers in public places.”

King says to prevent crimes from happening in the first place, huge investments in social agencies that support individuals before they become involved in crime are needed.

“And we don’t do a good enough job about that.”

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