The city needs more police-led enforcement blitzes on OC Transpo buses and stations, and better promotion of their work, says an east end councillor and transit commissioner.
“A lot of people don’t even know they happen,” said Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney.
His comments follow a one-day sting by city cops and OC Transpo special constables, netting 91 charges at Billings Bridge, Blair and Hurdman stations Saturday night.
Since then, Tierney said he’s heard from a number of people applauding the initiative.
“How do we want people to feel when we get on a bus or a train? If there’s a cost involved, that’s something we’ve got to talk about,” said Tierney.
But he acknowledges budgeting is going to be “one of the biggest hurdles.”
In the past year, plain-clothes cops have hopped on buses.
This time, uniformed officers were on foot at stations.
“It was very high visibility,” said Ottawa Police acting Insp. Mike Laviolette.
More than half of the offences were committed by those who thought they’d scored a free ride, resulting in 49 bylaw charges for failing to produce proof of payment.
The penalty: $150 fine plus a little public humiliation.
“We lose revenue when people ride for free, and that’s pretty important,” said Tierney.
Cops team up with Transpo three to four times annually for joint enforcement, Laviolette said.
“I think ideally, if we could, we’d do it every weekend,” said Laviolette.
“We work on a priority basis and based on what events are dictating where we’re going to send our resources; and we have to work that way.”
Laviolette said he believes police presence is effective.
“It certainly would serve as a deterrent for people getting on the bus and not paying,” he said.
“At the same time, I would like to think that it brings a sense of comfort and security to the riders, knowing that their tax dollars are being spent the right way.”
Billings and Blair have the most reported assaults this year, according to Transpo data.
Transpo staff recorded 64 incidents on board, while 36 took place at stations, totaling 100 incidents from Jan. 1 to Nov. 23.
In January, Transpo’s special constables will return to foot patrol, parking cruisers at a station and monitoring the old-fashioned way.
When “boots are on the ground,” people smarten up, Tierney said.
3 Liquor Licence Act
3 Safe Streets Act
36 Trespass to Property Act
49 City of Ottawa bylaw (fail to produce proof of payment)
small amounts of marijuana and alcohol