Two people were violently attacked in separate incidents in November at the Coliseum LRT Station in central Edmonton, shocking transit riders and prompting it to become a point of discussion at city hall on Tuesday.
“It’s kind of the elephant in the room,” Ward pihêsiwin Coun. Tim Cartmell said of an attack nine days ago in which a woman was beaten within an inch of her life while waiting for the LRT.
Two 12-year-old girls have been charged with aggravated assault in that incident that left the victim in life-threatening condition.
Cartmell spoke of the incident during a discussion on ridership improvement strategies during an urban planning committee meeting, where councillors weighed in on the perception of transit safety in Edmonton.
“I’m concerned when we have a conversation like we had today, where we talk about all of the wonderful and terrific things that are going to happen on transit, but we don’t address the issue of the day,” Cartmell said.
“We lose the social currency, we lose the approval of our constituents to spend money on transit when transit is perpetually viewed as unsafe — and these episodes don’t do anything to help that.”
The attack on the woman happened the evening of Sunday, Nov. 26, but the Edmonton Police Service didn’t inform the public of the incident until eight days later when a news release was issued Monday.
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A second, earlier attack that happened three weeks ago at the same transit centre on 118th Avenue near 78th Street in central Edmonton also came to light late Tuesday afternoon.
On the morning of Sunday, Nov. 12, a 58-year-old man got off the train at Coliseum LRT station and boarded a bus, where police said he was was randomly attacked while looking out a window.
The suspect in that case (pictured below) fled the scene and has not been identified or arrested.
Ward Métis Coun. Ashley Salvador said she has questions around the timing of the releases.
“Any type of violent incident, it really affects people’s perceptions and safety on transit,” Salvador said.
She said knowing there are higher incidents of crime at certain stations can create negative perceptions, but is important when deciding what targeted measures should be taken when it comes to enforcement and security patrols.
“Having the data on specific stations can influence (perceptions) as well, but that data is also really important when it comes to trying to to take steps and actions towards increasing transit safety.”
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Cartmell noted the suspects in the most recent attack are underage so their identities are protected by the Youth Criminal Justice Act — but at the same time, attacks of that nature should be made public.
He acknowledged the Edmonton Police Service has its hands tied, saying the force has been criticized by Mayor Amarjeet Sohi and some others on council for allegedly undermining transit by talking about violent acts.
“So the police service in a way, you know, can’t win because they if they report, they’re criticized for reporting — if they don’t report, they’re criticized for not reporting.
“So I’m not sure how they win in situations like this. They can’t seem to do the right thing.”
For its own part, EPS said the delay in reporting both of the attacks was attributed to the investigative process.
“A release about the incident was not issued prior to yesterday because, although there were arrests made, the investigation was still ongoing. This includes reviewing video, interviewing witnesses and other investigative tasks,” EPS spokesperson Dan Tames said of the attack on the woman in a statement to Global News.
“Upon completion of those tasks, it was evident that there were witnesses in the CCTV footage that did not come forward. As such, the news release was issued yesterday.”
EPS said it was the same thought process for the attack on the man.
Woman, 55, beaten into a coma at Coliseum LRT platform
Cartmell said it’s time for physical changes to transit stations. He plans to present a motion at the Dec. 12 council meeting to conduct a pilot project testing out barriers or turnstiles at transit stations.
The motion would see turnstiles at two different LRT stations — one of them being underground — for two years and see what happens.
“To see if we see a reduction in disorderly behaviour, if we see a reduction in violence — do we see a spill-over to other stations that wouldn’t have a fare gate during that pilot? And then compare that to a surface station or a (open) transit station to see if, you know, if there’s a way to make fare gates work.”
He said it isn’t fair to compare the city’s transit system to others around the world that have — or do not have — fare gates and Edmonton needs to see what works for its own system.
“Our situation is unique. Edmonton has a unique set of circumstances, by the way, in which it is the centre of commerce, of health-care, of incarceration for northwest Canada. So it’s not the same as those other places.”
Cartmell said his motion will also be a test of council’s will to take steps to improve safety.
“I hear from people that say the system is not safe and fare gates or turnstiles would make it safer — at least make it feel safer. We’ll see if a majority of council agrees that we should at least examine the issue.”
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Global News reached out to the mayor’s office two days in a row about the Nov. 26 attack.
On Tuesday, the mayor’s office said he couldn’t comment on the Nov. 26 attack but in an interview earlier in the day on 630 CHED, which is owned by the same parent company as Global News, the mayor said security officers are doing the best they can.
“The way I understand it, our security officials monitor where the hot spots are and then they deploy deploy resources accordingly. If we need to add more resources, we will add more resources,” Sohi said on the radio.
The City of Edmonton was asked Tuesday how many violent incidents have happened at the Coliseum LRT Station in the past six months, but the data was not available as of publishing.
Meanwhile, EPS is still looking for help in both cases: witnesses in the Nov. 26 aggravated assault on the woman and tips on the identity of the suspect in the Nov. 12 bus attack.
Anyone who can help with either investigation is asked to contact the EPS at 780-423-4567 or #377 from a mobile phone. Anonymous information can also be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online.
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