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Downtown Winnipeg buses to feature new safety officers this week

If you’re a downtown transit user, you’ll likely see some new faces on your commute as of Tuesday.

A total of 23 sworn-in peace officers will be posted on buses that travel through the downtown core, with the goal of crime prevention and keeping both drivers and passengers safe.

Chris Scott, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 15050, says his members are cautiously optimistic about the new program, which starts downtown with plans to expand to other areas of Winnipeg in future.

“Understandably, there’s a social aspect to this new team, and that will be the first step in what they do … and we hope to see some sort of enforcement as time goes on,” Scott told 680 CJOB’s The Start.

“They will have the authority to detain and arrest. They are currently equipped with a retractable baton should a more aggressive stance be needed, but their first goal would obviously be to get the individual off the bus and deal with their issue off the bus.”

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The officers are also intended to work with social agencies and emergency services to support Winnipeggers dealing with homelessness, addictions, and mental health issues by providing support at on site and by linking people with resources they need.

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The new officers will be highly visible in yellow and black uniforms clearly marked with “safety officer.”

Click to play video: 'New safety officers set to begin downtown patrols on and around Winnipeg Transit'

New safety officers set to begin downtown patrols on and around Winnipeg Transit

Scott said while most transit users are just trying to get from point A to point B in peace, Transit is seeing the majority of incidents starting with passengers who chose not to pay their bus fare — a problem that costs millions in lost revenue, as well as potential violence.

“The policy for operators is to not engage anybody that’s evading a fare. … But that being said, it is the fare evader that is causing about 90 per cent of the altercations on the bus.”

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Click to play video: 'Transit union head looking forward to Winnipeg bus safety initiatives'

Transit union head looking forward to Winnipeg bus safety initiatives

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