Montreal constables and bus drivers are calling for increased surveillance in public transit, in the face of the increase in violence observed there across the country, in Toronto and Vancouver in particular. The Société de transport de Montréal (STM) will soon unveil an action plan to “reinforce” the feeling of safety of its customers and employees.
“We are not yet in the same situation as Toronto, but yes, we are already seeing an increase in violence. What we see in the streets of Montreal, we see it in the metro and the buses too, ”says the president of the Brotherhood of constables and peace officers STM-CSN, Kevin Grenier.
Since the beginning of January, numerous violent events have occurred in the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) network, as previously reported by La Presse1. Security has also been tightly tightened. In British Columbia, the West Vancouver bus drivers union also called last week for increased security measures, after a series of violent events in recent weeks.
If Montreal “isn’t at the same stage yet, we should still be worried, in the sense that if we don’t take matters into our own hands, it would be surprising if we didn’t get to that too” , says Mr. Grenier. “Often what happens in Toronto or Vancouver, we see it a few months later,” he said.
He suggests to prevent the worst that the number of constables and surveillance agents be “enhanced” in the metro and on Montreal buses. “A lot of times we talk about crimes of opportunity, so if we’re there in numbers, it’s much harder to commit harassment or assault,” muses the president.
The violence, Mr. Grenier continues, “is very different from before the pandemic in terms of frequency and degree.” “We have to know how to adapt and act in the right way when we face criminals or vulnerable people looking for help. Sometimes it’s complex, and you can add to that mental health problems and alcohol or drug use. »
Pino Tagliaferri, president of the STM bus drivers union, also agrees. “What happens in Toronto, it could happen here, there’s nothing stopping it. Stories of violence are increasingly being heard across Canada and here. Of course, we are always a little more fearful when we get up in the morning to come and do our job,” he reveals.
His group also says that it has begun talks with the STM to equip buses with “anti-aggression cabins, in order to better protect bus drivers”. “It’s something to really think about in the near future. In Toronto, it’s something they already have. And we don’t understand why it wasn’t done here, ”continues Mr. Tagliaferri.
Currently, there are just over 160 constables who travel the 71 kilometers and 68 stations of the STM’s underground network. Last year, 17 of them left the ranks, without being replaced.
The STM affirms for its part that it is currently preparing “a reinforced action plan aimed at reinforcing the feeling of security and reassuring [its] customers and employees”.
“[This plan] has been developed and is currently being validated by decision-making bodies, including members of the board of directors,” said the spokesperson for the transport company, Philippe Déry, without giving more details. details.
He reiterates that several “complex social phenomena exacerbated since the pandemic” are “increasingly present” in the Montreal metro and buses.
“We are concerned about this trend and we are working with the SPVM to improve the actions already in place to help ensure the safety of customers and employees,” said Mr. Déry.
In addition to 2,000 cameras present in the Montreal metro, the transport company recalls that “200 maintenance workers were equipped with cell phones in the fall of 2022”. “Drivers can also press a button on the console for faster handling of emergency situations, especially when safety is at stake,” recalls Philippe Déry.