Security Dogs on Skytrain

Comments 11 by Rebecca Bollwitt

When I was teenager growing up on Whalley my friends and I would walk down to Gateway or Surrey Central to head downtown and we’d be kind of scared of Broadway or Granville Stations – although it just ultimately proved how daring we were to venture to such places so far from home.

As an adult I’ve feared for my safety a few times on transit and I’m lucky enough to have never witnessed any major altercations. I ride buses almost every day, and SkyTrain about 5 times a month. I know there are some major issues here but I’d like to review the many sides of each discussion.

Earlier this month it was announced that Translink would be beefing up SkyTrain security with the use of drug-sniffing dogs at stations and on trains.

Under the program, specially trained police officers will patrol the SkyTrain line with dogs. If the program is deemed a success, the Transit Police Service could then develop its own dog squad, according to Doug Kelsey, CEO of the B.C. Rapid Transit Company, which operates the SkyTrain for the regional transit authority. [CBC]

Some are very pleased with this initiative although over on The Buzzer blog (the Buzzer being the official Translink publication) there’s quite the discussion going.

According to The Buzzer this is all a part of a much larger security plan that would include:

  • Security personnel will be more visible at stations where transit customers feel the least secure
  • New Transit Police bike patrols
  • SkyWatch: customers report crime via text-messages
  • Continued drug sweeps in partnership with police forces along the SkyTrain line
  • The creation of “transit villages” around Surrey Central and Broadway Station
  • Broadway Station safety and security upgrades
  • Continuing to expand retail presence at SkyTrain stations to provide more “eyes and ears” at more times of the day
  • Testing public acceptance of the use of police dogs on the SkyTrain system
  • Transit Police Dogs
  • Completion of lighting upgrades at the Expo Line stations
  • Testing facility improvements that will make emergency telephones and other security systems easier to locate, particularly on station platforms
  • Karen, who ran the SkyTrain Security Unconference in Surrey a few months ago left the following comments.

    Re: “Our work is not impeded by not having dogs, but we may be able to do more with one or two specifically trained dogs. We would not be roaming the system sniffing people for drugs. We “MAY” want to sniff for explosives though.”

    Karen: “I’m sure this is comforting to hear, for those of us travelling with small children or who are concerned about those with allergies to dogs. It does beg my next question: is the need urgent or pressing enough so that TransLink needs to invest in having these resources available in-house, rather than collaborating to make use of existing law enforcement resources? I can see that in a pinch it might be time wasted to secure an RCMP resource.”

    Re: “Again, thinking of safety and security, what would the public response be if some sort of attack took place against the system, and we had not done all we could to prevent or detect that attack.”

    Karen: “In my opinion, statements like this do nothing to support the cause of helping the public accept initiatives like police dogs. We can speculate far and wide on all sorts of things that might happen due to some hazily-defined enemy, and there is certainly no doubt that security and safety are certainly important, but must our everyday peace of mind be continually asked to take a back seat?”

    What do you think are the most effective security measures? Do we need a police or security presence at all stations or just the ones with the most problems?

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    11 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

    1. alexMonday, December 8th, 2008 — 6:30pm PST

      I’m inclined to say no.

      I think that beefing up the skytrain security is a band-aid solution to the real problems of homelessness and drug abuse around these “problem stations”. Maybe more security might help in the short term, but it won’t do much for the root cause.

    2. JennyMonday, December 8th, 2008 — 7:10pm PST

      From what I’ve seen (although to be honest don’t use transit much recently) problems are mostly caused by ‘punks’ hanging around looking to cause problems. I don’t think they are directly a result of homelessness, however, drug dealing is an issue as well.

    3. Duane StoreyMonday, December 8th, 2008 — 9:21pm PST

      Are they really worried about people blowing up the skytrain? And seriously, if someone is carrying some weed, who cares? Seems like a total waste of money.

    4. Tyler IngramTuesday, December 9th, 2008 — 6:28am PST

      I think a better presence of security can’t hurt. But to use dogs now?

      Is it me or are the SkyTrain/Transit Police getting more and more like VPD or something? I thought they were supposed to be a ‘presence’ like Genesis or Paladin Security 😉

      I know retailers around skytrain stations are never happy. It allows thieves easy access to getting away. Take LondonDrugs I remember talking to their security department (i used to work for LD) and they hated that Lougheed mall was getting a SkyTrain station because it would allow people to steal and get away quicker. I know it sounds odd but what happens is they would steal from one store, hop on the SkyTrain and then get off a the next store and try to return it saying ‘they forgot the receipt’. Though LD would give them a ‘credit voucher’ and keep the product. Surprisingly some used to do that, or just take off running again lol. Oops I might have gotten off track….

      Anyway I think an increase in security presence is a good thing. Don’t know if it needs to be dogs or not.

    5. BradTuesday, December 9th, 2008 — 9:57am PST

      I don’t really see it being a benefit or not…but I do agree they are most likely getting things ready for the Olympics.

      Just a side note…the Transit Police are in fact that….Police. They are not security (Translink has those as well however). They have pretty much the same power as regular Police Officers, they carry weapons, and can arrest and subdue criminals. I believe one of the reasons for Translink to have their own Police force was the take away any unnecessary burden on the different municipalities Police forces, in which some are RCMP and some are not…and the number of crimes that were happening in and around Translink properties were too numerous for “traditional” Police forces to deal with in a timely manner.

    6. JheniferTuesday, December 9th, 2008 — 10:12am PST

      Hey Rebecca! Hey everybody who’s writing in on this issue!

      This is Jhenifer here from the Buzzer blog, and I just want to say a) great post on the topic, Rebecca, and b) it’s great seeing the feedback from everybody on the strategies we’re looking at.

      As well, I just wanted to take a moment to clarify some items, which are getting a bit muddled in the overall discussion for some reason.

      First, the police dogs are *not* drug-sniffing dogs. The dogs are sniffing for explosives, and only one or two dogs will be on the system. (The Olympics in 2010 certainly present security concerns of this type.) As well, the use of dogs is a major “if” right now. So, please don’t think that there will be packs of dogs roaming the SkyTrain and aggressively pursuing everybody for the faintest trace of drugs–that’s not the intent at all!

      The second item is that I’m not sure it’s clear that there’s an overall strategy behind the big list of security actions that are presented. All of these actions fall under a security strategy consisting of four themes: reassurance, engagement, infrastructure, and intervention. (Check out the full explanation behind each theme on the Buzzer blog security post .)

      So, I just wanted to point out that these security actions aren’t taking place at random or in isolation. The Transit Police is really trying to take an active, broad look at the issues surrounding SkyTrain security, including the social issues of homelessness and drugs around the stations. So that’s why one of the key themes driving the security strategy is actually “intervention”: taking public security beyond the realm of law enforcement and attacking the root causes of crime through an integrated approach with health, social and mental health services.

      And last: the Transit Police are essentially a police force devoted to the SkyTrain. There’s another branch of our security staff called Transit Security who is more like corporate security akin to Genesis or Paladin. Confusing, I know – we even have a backgrounder to help you tell them apart, which is available back at the Buzzer blog security post.

      Anyway, again, great post, and it’s good to read the discussion from all of you!

    7. nancy (aka citizens banker)Tuesday, December 9th, 2008 — 11:58pm PST

      @Jhenifer Thanks for dropping by Rebecca’s blog. 9 years ago I ditched my car in favour of public transit – my bit for the planet, plus appeals to my frugal side. I just read the security piece on your blog and all I can say is: increasingly, using public transit, esp the skytrain, is losing its appeal to me – not because I’ve ever experienced danger (although I know sometimes it is) but because the whole tone from Translink is, well, becoming harsh, authoritarian and control-oriented. It used to feel kinda neighbourly and progressive. It doesn’t anymore. It’s happened using language of “security”, and I certainly don’t want to trivialize people’s safety, but somewhere along the way, for me, it’s crossed into tones of threat and ugliness.

    8. NicoleWednesday, December 10th, 2008 — 12:28am PST

      Hi everyone, love the discussion.

      I take the skytrain and one bus to school and back home at least 4 days a week, September to April. Since this semester began I have not even once seen fares being checked. This makes me angry because I feel like some of the individuals who might be contributing to the decreased safety of the transit facilities might be the kinds of people who jump fare.

      Secondly: I have heard that the amount of money lost as a result of fare jumpers is negligable (according to Translink). I’m sick and tired of Translink saying they are short on cash. Why? Because every single bus I have ridden has plenty of room inside for advertising. I see panels that are completely outdated which advertise sales that have been over for months and months, or paneling that is completely empty and blank. I’d fire the Translink advertisement marketing team for that. At least they could take down stuff that’s expired!

      I have noticed a slight increase in Translink Police Patrols in the past couple weeks, but I wish the Transit Police would check some fares while they are on the train instead of just standing around and talking to each other about the stock market! It blows my mind how inefficient the company is right now.

      And don’t even get me started on the lack of turnstiles and long platforms/short trains. Oh, and the privatized monopoly on our public (PUBLIC) transit system? Gah!

      I get that our metropolitan area is relatively young in comparison to Europe’s major cities, but we are supposed to learn from their examples. I came home from London last year and my first experience back on Translink Transit was excruciating. Hey Translink – check out the Tube. And please, fly economy. I don’t want to pay for your business class seat. P.S. Mind the Gap.

      All this said, it could be worse, and usually I don’t mind the skytrain. It’s just nice to finally have the opportunity to discuss the problems.

    9. Shane GibsonWednesday, December 10th, 2008 — 9:28am PST

      Wouldn’t turnstiles help? I watch these guys deal drugs openly in front of the stations then walk onto the train without buying tickets all the time staring down other passengers and intimidating or harassing them. We need to make it harder for them to misuse the system

      We need better systems and security. Those that are against more Skytrain security or the odd dog (only two) how will you feel when something happens and you’re alone on the train?

      I’ve always been treated well by the Skytrain security / cops. I remember when they didn’t have weapons and watched a female Skytrain security person wrestle with a drugged out guy with a knife. Too many people are in denial about the level of threat the general public is under with un-checked free to roam criminals.

      Where does the disrespecting elderly and and children comment come in? The guy with the backpack knocking people over as he pushes in, and Chatty
      Cathy on her cell phone sitting in the seniors seat and not getting up for your Grandma are bigger issues.

    10. Short TurnsFriday, February 13th, 2009 — 4:53pm PST

      I’ve started a blog meant to share stories about Vancouver’s transit system from a users point of view. Please see the link and share your stories, complaints, and suggestions. Thanks.

    11. home security surreyThursday, March 26th, 2009 — 3:51am PDT

      At some level, each of us is aware of our own personal security. While we recognize police in our community as a responder to incidents, police alone cannot effectively prevent property crime. This is a community problem which requires a collaborative effort from residents committed to exacting a positive change.Your own instincts can greatly assist you to make decisions which best ensure your safety.


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