Edmonton approves transit safety plan, includes expanded community outreach pilot

Feb. 28, 2022
The plan takes a coordinated and integrated approach to safety and will deliver on an increase in social support.

The Edmonton City Council approved the Transit Safety Plan on Feb. 24 for the Alberta capital’s transit system. The city says the plan “will help further ensure a safe experience for transit riders and users of the downtown pedway system.”

“We all deserve to feel safe on transit, and today we took a good step forward in ensuring this becomes a reality,” said Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi. “As we look to welcome back even more riders as public health orders are lifted, a plan that addresses safety is critical for economic recovery, downtown reactivation and community safety and well-being.”

The plan approved by the city council last week builds on the more than C$22 million (US$17.22 million) in transit safety improvements approved in 2018 that have resulted in a significant decrease in criminal occurrences and mischief.

The city says the plan outlines several initiatives that will see increased coordination and integration between the main partners and increased social support provided by the Community Outreach Transit Team (COTT).

The COTT program, which began in September 2021 in partnership with Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, has been expanded to be a three-year program under the approved transit safety plan. The COTT model partners transit peace officers with outreach workers with the aim of building relationships and connecting individuals to specialized community services, such as housing, mental health care, substance use resources and financial assistance.

“We are listening, learning and adapting,” said Andre Corbould, city manager. “We know we can do more and we have a plan to do that. Together, with our colleagues at Bent Arrow and Edmonton Police Service, we are focused on increasing safety for everyone in the transit system.”

The expanded COTT program will see the city of Edmonton, the Edmonton Police Service and Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society establish a leadership committee that will focus on coordinated crime prevention strategies and targeted responses to criminal activity. The committee will implement a joint safety operations team under a unified, shared command and dispatch system that includes police officers, city peace officers, Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society outreach workers and Fire Rescue Services.

The approved funding of $3.9 million will be used to expand COTT by adding additional staff and increasing the presence of the team on transit. Stakeholders will also be working with Alberta Health Services to ensure people have access to services beyond the scope of COTT, such as health care, addictions treatment, psychiatric services and other specialized care. The city will gather feedback throughout the three-year pilot period and continue to make improvements to the program.

“We are seeing benefits that the COTT program works,” said Carrie Hotton-MacDonald, branch manager, Edmonton Transit Service. “Since the launch in October, we are pleased that disorder rates dropped following that implementation, despite more people staying indoors due to colder weather in these months.”

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