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'Trending in the right direction': Violent crime on Calgary transit down to start 2024 after an increase last year

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Violent attacks on Calgary transit spiked last year but recently there seems to be a promising shift in the trend.

Overall last year, violent crime on transit was up 15 per cent compared to the previous year, according to Calgary Police Service data acquired by CTV News.

The beginning of 2023 was particularly violent, including a shooting on a city bus and stabbings on CTrain platforms, but the beginning of 2024 saw violent crime on transit decrease 38 per cent compared to the same period last year.

“We’re trending in the right direction,” said Scott Boyd, superintendent patrol of the south division with the Calgary Police Service.

Between January and March of 2024, there were 55 assaults on Calgary transit, including a random attack on a Calgary teen.

Jacob Giraldo Mejia’s face swelling was nearly gone a month after he was sucker-punched by a stranger while getting off a city bus downtown, but the 17-year-old still recalls those first days after the March 16 attack.

“Pretty, pretty bad. I could only drink soup from a straw at the beginning,” he said.

He needed surgery on his jaw and has had to miss school since.

The man charged with attacking Giraldo Mejia was “known to police”.

Along with violent crimes, Calgary police say calls for service, property crime, theft and drug-related offences on transit are also down significantly compared to this time last year.

Trending down

The number of assaults on city transit is down from last year when there were 71 between January and March of 2023.

“Violent crime is the piece that often hits people the hardest, right? It's a big violation of their personal space, and at times seems so random,” said Supt. Boyd.

The latest decrease may be linked to security changes.

“We’ve dispersed the officers through the city, to a northeast district, and downtown district and a southwest district,” said Marcia Gonder, deputy chief of safety with Calgary Transit.

In January, Calgary Transit went from one to three district hubs and 65 more transit officers patrolling the system.

“We’re seeing a decrease by 21 per cent in social disorder and a decrease by 64 per cent in the amount of people who are sheltering in place at stations,” said Gondek.

“I think Calgarians are seeing more of our officers out there and seeing the collaboration with our law enforcement officers.”

“They have ramped up security on the train so for me, I feel safer now,” said transit user Syed Rasul.

There are also 25 more police officers with an eye on transit.

“We’ve asked them to take a proactive approach to targeting what we call high system users,” said Boyd.

New groups called SMART (Social Mental Health and Addiction Referral Team) and “Action Table” partner with other agencies to provide rapid access to services and support for those at risk of crisis.

Giraldo Mejia is optimistic about the new measures meant to deter violence.

“For me, it has been a drastic change so hopefully it doesn’t happen to as many people,” said Giraldo Mejia.

He is preparing to return to school and go back to eating solid food.

He was worried that missing a whole month of his senior year might set back his schooling, but now thinks he may be able to graduate this spring as planned.

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