A crime prevention expert is praising a campaign to revise the Criminal Code in an effort to protect bus drivers from being attacked.
“We’re seeing a continuing uptick in assaults and threats against bus drivers in many Canadian cities,” said security consultant David Hyde.
Liberal MP Ralph Goodale wants the feds to fast-track his private members bill and effect change as early as next month.
Bill C-533 calls for making assaulting an on-duty bus driver an aggravating factor during sentencing when there’s a guilty verdict, leading to a tougher punishment.
”This is not a big city issue alone. It obviously affects transit operations in large communities but it affects every size of community across the country,” said Goodale.
That includes Ottawa.
The most recent high-profile incident revolves around a man who dragged OC Transpo driver John Karagiannis off a bus and beat him last April.
Paul Ness, 38, won’t be serving jail time after receiving a suspended sentence last week.
Now, outraged drivers are demanding the city ban Ness from riding buses outright.
Transpo GM John Manconi told media he’s looking into it.
“More and more, it seems that people are deciding that they don’t want to pay and that the bus driver’s the one that’s going to pay with his life or with his well-being as he’s assaulted and viciously attacked,” said Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 president Craig Watson.
With 59 reported assaults against Transpo drivers last year — and 2,061 nationwide in 2011, according to the Canadian Urban Transit Association — harsher penalties are long overdue, say proponents.
“It’s frustrating that prevention does not seem to be more of a priority with many Canadian transit system authorities,” said Hyde.
Despite legislative changes, ”the most effective violence prevention measure when it comes to assaults against bus drivers” is partial protective screens, said Hyde, noting that offering flexibility gives drivers time to move ‘out of the line of fire’ but allows them to speak with riders.
“All too often, crime prevention on buses is viewed as a linear concept. It’s either stricter laws, or CCTV cameras, or protective screens,” Hyde said.
The only way to effectively reduce bus driver assaults “is to adopt an approach that brings together a carefully-selected range of crime prevention measures based on the unique risk factors in existence on each transit system.”