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Anti-crime upgrades coming: TransLink

More transit police are among the increased security measures coming to SkyTrain stations. - Leader file photo
More transit police are among the increased security measures coming to SkyTrain stations.
— image credit: Leader file photo

Better lighting, improved video surveillance, more transit police and other improvements are all coming to SkyTrain to help improve safety, according to TransLink officials.

They were responding to a renewed call for upgrades from NDP MLA Adrian Dix.

He spoke out Monday for more action, along with Sheshleen Datt, an 18-year-old woman swarmed at the entrance of Nanaimo Station April 29 and the parents of a youth killed at Surrey Central station in 2005.

New Democrats are demanding at least one security guard be posted at stations at all times, among other changes.

"The security of transit passengers must come first," Dix said.

TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie said there are now 115 Transit Police officers, up 50 per cent in two years as the force expands.

Improved lighting is coming to Expo Line stations – the busiest ones are already complete.

Also planned are a system of electronic turnstiles in concert with smart card payment, which transportation minister Kevin Falcon says will increase the sense of safety.

And Hardie said SkyTrain's digital video surveillance system is to be completed in July.

The old videotape system runs on a two-hour loop and taped over footage of Datt's assailants because Transit Police failed to request the tape be pulled in time.

David Toner, the father of 16-year-old Matthew Martins killed at Surrey Central three years ago, noted the video upgrade was promised almost two years ago.

"Now we're finding out it hasn't been done," he said. "What is it going to take before TransLink follows through with their promises and upgrades to a video system that isn't archaic?"

Toner agrees there should be at least one uniformed security guard at each station. Such guards would cost much less than a full transit police officer, he noted, but could stay in contact with them, deter criminals and improve response times greatly.

TransLink maintains media reports too often describe incidents as happening at SkyTrain when in fact most happen on streets away from stations.

Toner says that may be true, but attackers often zero in on a victim like Datt while they're on board.

"The girls who jumped her were on the same SkyTrain as her and followed her off," he said. "That's where they're doing their trolling – they're looking for victims."

Hardie said it's a reminder for people to use the security systems on board SkyTrain.

"The girls responsible for the attack on Sheshleen had been acting aggressively on the train, and had someone pushed the silent alarm, help would have been close at hand," he said.

Hardie said even extra security at stations wouldn't help in cases where something happens outside the station, beyond guards' view.

Deploying security at every station isn't the best use of resources, he added.

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