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On November 21, at the Canadian Urban Transit Association Conference in Toronto, Metro Vancouver Transit Police Sergeant Wendy Hawthorne will receive the 2018 Leadership Award in Excellence to acknowledge the benefits our transit system has gained thanks to her specialized expertise in graffiti on transit. We caught up with Wendy for an interview before she heads off into retirement at the end of this year.
National Police Week is May 13–19! This week, police forces across from Canada are connecting with their communities and increasing awareness about the services they provide. Here on The Buzzer blog, we’re kicking off our new series, Meet Your Transit Police!
This will be a semi-regular series that profiles members of the Metro Vancouver Transit Police, who ensure safety and security on and around the region’s public transportation system, including SkyTrain, bus, SeaBus and West Coast Express.
Metro Vancouver is home to Canada’s only public police force dedicated to transit with full provincial policing powers: Metro Vancouver Transit Police (MVTP). They’re responsible for a service area that crosses 21 municipalities and one First Nation, working to reduce crime and disorder through community policing and beat-style patrols.
Here are five things you might know about Transit Police!
They’re provincial police officers
Transit Police officers are designated provincial police officers. It means they have full police powers throughout the province of British Columbia, 24/7, on and off duty—the same as municipal police officers in British Columbia.
Dogs with jobs
The Transit Police Dog Service Unit, specializing in explosives detection, patrols the system. It’s just one of the many initiatives that keep the system safe! The unit is comprised of four Labradors: Lucie, Cruiser, Kona and Diesel. They’re friendly and you are often welcome to pet them—just make sure you ask their human partner for permission first!
On duty 24/7/365
The Metro Vancouver Transit Police Operations Centre is available 24/7/365, responding to non-emergency events texted to 87.77.77 and calls to 604.515.8300. Remember—in an emergency, always call 9-1-1.
Patrol operations are guided by intelligence reports and crime trend analysis. Transit Police also works closely with Transit Security on ensuring the safety and security of bus operators and passengers across Metro Vancouver.
Policing the moving city
Metro Vancouver Transit Police responds to incidents all over the transit system, and deploys foot patrols and mobile response units. Their work is guided by four operational priorities: reducing sexual offences, reducing frontline workplace assaults, helping vulnerable people in crisis and building system resiliency.
Walking the beat
Did you know Transit Police officers usually patrol the same areas each day? It’s called walking the beat. This community-focused, holistic approach allows our Neighbourhood Police Officers (NPOs) to develop specialist knowledge of the areas they work in and understand the particular needs of each community. This approach translates into a safer journey for all passengers and safer workplace for transit staff.
Over the coming months, we’ll be profiling members of Transit Police and all they to do keep our transit system safe!
From a young age, Constable Leanne Smith, Police Dog Handler with Metro Vancouver Transit Police aspired to do the very job she does today. Cliché perhaps, but growing up with dogs of her own fostered an admiration and appreciation for the canine cop role.
Happy Hallow’s Eve from all of us here at TransLink!
Halloween is a fun and exciting time for kids and adults alike and safety is paramount whether you’re heading out on foot, personal vehicle or via transit. The forecast is calling for a clear and dry evening of tricks and treats.
Our friends at Transit Police have six tips to help you stay safe on transit:
This annual event takes place at Kitsilano beach in Vancouver, with the support of other police agencies and organizations, Polar Plunge participants are #FreezinForAReason raising money in support of adults and children with intellectual disabilities providing the opportunity to participate and excel in sporting activities.
Transit Police have supported Special Olympics BC in a variety of ways over the past number of years, from fundraising through the BC Law Enforcement Torch Run, an overtime drive for personal donation by staff, an annual golf tournament and of course this event – the Polar Plunge.
Transit Police surpassed their fundraising goal for this event, however if you’re interested in giving back and supporting a great cause or learning more, check out the Transit Police Polar Plunge page.
Author: Sarah Kertcher
Halloween is a great time for kids and adults alike!
It’s important with all the fun and frivolity that dressing as Star Lord and Cleopatra can bring that we keep ourselves safe on this spooky night!
Allow me to present tips from Transit Police for you to have a safe and happy Halloween!
- Take extra care when choosing a Halloween costume.
Prop swords and knives could be mistaken for the real thing. Think about how might this costume put your safety at risk? Best rule of thumb: if you’re unsure, leave it at home.
- Consuming alcohol in public is illegal.
This includes at SkyTrain stations and on-board buses, SkyTrain, Canada Line, SeaBus and West Coast Express. If you are on your way to an event and are carrying alcohol, be sure the container remains closed until you arrive at your destination.
- See something? Say something.
There are quick ways to report non-emergency police issues discreetly to Transit Police. You can text 87-77-77, use the OnDuty App or call 604-515-8300. In an emergency always call 911.
- Stay alert to your surroundings while on public transit.
As always, try to keep valuables out of sight from others and keep your eyes open! Don’t be distracted by your electronic device.
- Plan ahead for a safe ride home.
Make note of key times such as the last trip of the night! Check out the NightBus and SkyTrain schedules to make sure you don’t miss your ride home.
- Set a meeting place.
If you are travelling in a group, plan a meeting place ahead of time in case you get separated.
- Be seen!
Wear bright costumes or include reflective tape, glow sticks, or other articles that improve visibility.
- Try face paint or make‐up instead of a mask.
If you must wear a mask, enlarge the eyes for better vision and remove it when you are walking in and around stations and in busy pedestrian areas.
Author: Adrienne Coling
Whether you are on SeaBus, West Coast Express, SkyTrain or buses, Metro Vancouver Transit Police is right there with you!
Our unique police service has a brand new mobile-friendly website to make it even easier to say something, when you see something, all with your mobile phone.
By visiting transitpolice.ca you are able to discreetly report a non-emergency police issue, contact us, download the OnDuty app or text 87-77-77 and Transit Police takes each report they receive very seriously.
Check out the safety tips section to help keep yourself and your belongings safe while on transit.
Basically, visiting transitpolice.ca means that you have Transit Police in your pocket during your transit journey on all modes at all times.
You can help Transit Police keep transit safe. If you see something, say something!
Author: Adrienne Coling (with files from Transit Police)
This puppy was one of the most fun subjects we’ve ever had the pleasure to work with!
Meet the newest member of the Transit Police. She’s a 10-months-old chocolate lab with amber eyes and a playful disposition. She joins three other dogs on the force, and her job will be to help sniff out suspicious packages left on the system.
I say ‘she’ because she doesn’t have a name yet. Think you have a great name for the newest member on the force? Well, here’s your chance to name her!
The Transit Police are asking students from K thru 12 to provide a name they think would be perfect for the puppy. The contest runs until February 12, 2016 at midnight.
The student who provides the winning name will win a visit to their school from the puppy and her police officer handler for a presentation, as well as a bag of special goodies.
Entries should be submitted to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Transit Police are celebrating 10 years as a police service and 30 years serving the transit system.
Transit Police originates from the Special Provincial Constables of the BC Transit Security Service.
They were appointed just prior to the opening of the first SkyTrain line in December 1985.
Several new constables were trained as the final five Expo Line SkyTrain stations were opened.
However, the constables were never intended to enforce non-transit related drug offences, execute outstanding warrants or incidents occurring just
outside of SkyTrain stations.
Clearly, there was a need for a separate policing agency for the system. So, as the transit system grew, so did the scope and responsibilities of these individuals.
The wheels started rolling towards becoming a full-fledged police service with a dispatch and police board in 2004 which resulted in the creation of Transit Police as we know them today!
The Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Police Service (GVTAPS) officially rolled out December 4, 2005 as the first dedicated transit police service in Canada.
After the launch, an E-Comm wide area radio system, a Police CAD dispatch system and a Public Records Information Management Environment (PRIME) system were implemented.
The next 10 years saw the establishment of a crime reduction unit, a dog service unit and the launch of both the SMS text reporting service as well as OnDuty App in 2013 and 2014 respectively, just to name a few initiatives.
I had the immense pleasure and opportunity to attend the Transit Police Academy last spring and learning the ins and outs of how this service is run still astounds me!
The Transit Police service is consistently working to keep our system safe and secure and working with local partners to help our community’s most vulnerable people.
Here are some photos of their celebration:
Thank you Transit Police for all you do and happy anniversary!
For more information on Transit Police, head to transitpolice.bc.ca.
Author: Adrienne Coling
Boo! Halloween is just around the corner and as things get a bit spookier around Metro Vancouver, Transit Police wants to share a few tips on how to make sure you have a safe night out. Here are a few things to keep in mind this All Hallows Eve:
1) Take extra care when choosing a Halloween costume. Ask yourself, could this prop be easily mistaken for the real thing? If so, how might it put your safety at risk if the police are called? If in doubt, leave it at home.
2) Remember, consumption of liquor in public is illegal. This includes at SkyTrain stations and on-board buses, SkyTrain, and SeaBus, If you are carrying liquor on transit, ensure it remains closed until you arrive at your private destination.
3) See something? Say something. There are three easy ways to report non-emergency police issues discreetly to Transit Police: text 87-77-77, use the OnDuty App or call 604-515-8300. In an emergency always call 911.
4) Stay alert to your surroundings while on public transit. Keep valuables out of sight from others. Avoid being distracted by your electronic device.
5) Plan ahead for a safe ride home. Make note of key times such as the last trip of the night!
6) If travelling in a group, establish a meeting place just in case you are separated.
7) Be visible. Wear bright costumes or include reflective tape, glow sticks, or other articles that improve visibility.
8) Use face paint or make‐up instead of a mask. If you must wear a mask, enlarge the eyes for better vision and push it back off your face when you are walking in and around train stations and in busy pedestrian areas.
Author: Laura Tennant
I must say, of all the things I have learned thus far at Transit Police Academy, this week was my favourite.
As I said in the previous post, the two topics were recruiting and IRAYL.
If you’re interested in becoming a Transit Police officer, be prepared!
There are 14 different stages to a successful application and intake that leads to hiring and the police academy training.
This process is exactly like the other police departments in the region.
Transit Police is looking to hire from the same crop of applicants so having a similar application process across the board just makes sense.
But it’s important to note that while the majority of other police services address calls by car, Transit Police are beat-police.
They proactively patrol transit on foot which enables them to build relationships with customers, businesses and other stakeholders.
These relationships coupled with a highly visible presence on the transit system daily, enables Transit Police to address root causes of crime in and around transit in a proactive manner.
Transit Police gets about 70% of their applicants as new recruits meaning 30% are from other police departments.
Here are just some of the steps you need to complete in order to be considered:
- Participate in a ride-along
- Take, and pass, a written exam
- Provide 30 (yes, 30!) personal references on top of your work references
- Pass physical testing called the Police Officer Physical Ability Test
- In-person interviews
- Psychological evaluation
- Take a polygraph
What I thought was particularly interesting is how they really look at the whole package.
Why YOU want to get into policing, what makes up who you are and how you would fit within the police service.
So, if you end up passing all the tests with flying colours, you are hired and then sent to Police Academy.
Here, there are three blocks of training:
- Academic (13-14 weeks)
- Field Training (8-12 weeks)
- Academic (8-10 weeks)
Upon completion, you will then graduate and become a full-fledged Transit Police member. And if you make it, believe me, you deserve it!
Next up is something I could go on and on about so, please excuse me if I do.
It’s a wonderful program, the only of its kind, called IRAYL.
IRAYL is run out of Pacific Community Resources and funded by the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development.
Their goal is to connect at-risk youth with resources to help them be safe, healthy and assist the region’s most vulnerable groups and their families.
The four members of this outreach team are on and around the SkyTrain system, Monday to Friday for eleven hours each day.
They help bridge the gap between social workers and the youth by directing people to shelters, doctors, detox and rehabilitation centres, food banks, social programs and so much more!
On site, each IRAYL member will be highly visible and carry back packs that have snacks, juice, fresh socks and/or underwear and other necessity items that kids on the street often aren’t able to provide for themselves.
They work closely with Transit Police to not only make sure these youth are safe, but also ensure the safety of the rest of the public on the system.
For them, it’s all about building trusting relationships and helping people get out of unhealthy and oftentimes dangerous situations.
Personally, I wish there was funding for a team of 10, 20, 50, even 100 of these fantastic individuals who are able to reach out and provide hope and help for so many people.
They do incredible work and I was proud to meet them and hear the stories of their work.
The next session of Transit Police Academy is about the Professional Standards Unit who investigate complaints about police members and doing some tactical simulations in the combat room! Stay tuned!
Author: Adrienne Coling
Complex investigations are the real critical part of police work.
Transit Police has a special investigation team called the Crime Reduction Unit (CRU). Members of Transit Police who want to be a part of this team apply separately.
The Crime Reduction Unit works closely with front line Transit Police and collaborates with other police departments within the region.
CRU officers are trained in tactical surveillance, intelligence gathering, offender management and forensic interviewing. This unit utilizes various investigative techniques conducted in both uniform and plain clothes.
The main tasks for this team are:
- identifying suspects
- arrests which are often the result of weeks or months of investigation
- search warrants
- seizing property
- offender management
CRU is doing a great job helping keep the transit system as safe as possible for all riders!
In fact, they are responsible for numerous apprehensions of criminals on and off the system in and around Metro Vancouver.
Did you know that in 2014, alone Transit Police removed 967 wanted criminals and criminals breaching court imposed conditions from the system?
Now, if you’re like me and you like to walk/cycle around your neighbourhood, I think you’d be hard pressed to find an area that has absolutely NO graffiti.
It really is a major problem for cities all over the world! Houses, garages, businesses, cars and yes, even our transit system is constantly being defaced by graffiti.
Transit Police Sgt. Wendy Hawthorne is internationally known for her expertise around the culture of graffiti and leading anti-graffiti strategies.
She, along with a joint task force with police departments throughout the Lower Mainland and across BC, handle everything from major gang-related graffiti and hate crimes to prevention work within high schools.
The strategy includes eradication, education, prevention and enforcement.
Wendy also supports the use of restorative justice. I didn’t know what that meant at first either–here’s the official definition from Correctional Service Canada:
“Restorative Justice (RJ) helps meet the needs of people faced with crime and conflict in an inclusive and meaningful way. RJ practices provide voluntary opportunities for those who have been harmed and those who have caused harm to be active participants in their journey for justice, accountability, and reparation.”
Basically, it is about moving forward from the crime and in the instances of graffiti, having the perpetrators be accountable for their actions beyond the courts.
One way to do this is with art programs that allow people to get out of the graffiti lifestyle and create art that doesn’t hurt or harm anyone or their property.
Which personally I think it fantastic! With mentors, some of these people will truly benefit from it and be able to express themselves in a more positive and meaningful way.
Next up in Transit Police Academy is recruiting (any takers?!) and IRAYL — the Inter-Regional At-Risk Youth Link.
I’ll write all about it in my next installment in a week’s time.
Author: Adrienne Coling
Week two of Transit Police Academy was very technical. Literally!
It was all about the technology they use to communicate with each other, other police in the region, emergency services as well as you (and me!), the riders on the system.
Something I thought was particularly interesting is the way that Transit Police uses historical data and specialized crime predictive analysis to identify and track hotspots and areas of concern along the system.
Specialized software automatically generates a predictive algorithm which enables Transit Police to forecast where and when criminal activity is most likely to occur.
This information determines where police focus their patrols, greatly reduces response times and helps to proactively reduce and address root causes of crime. Read more »
After my first evening in Transit Police Academy, I have to admit that I didn’t know what I didn’t know until I knew it!
Transit Police was created in 2004 to be the thread that ties all the different jurisdictions in the region together.
They are trained exactly as any other police department and have the power of arrest, have access and ability to share information with other police departments and RCMP and are accountable to many authorities both provincial and federal.
We got a really great example of how Transit Police works in the Lower Mainland.
An incident occurred in a Surrey SkyTrain station with the perpetrator then hopping on the train heading to New Westminster committing another crime on the system THEN getting on again and getting into some more trouble in Vancouver.
Before Transit Police, these incidents caused by a single perpetrator included not one, not two but THREE police departments all with varying degrees of information based on the individual situations in their jurisdiction.
Transit Police streamlines the process and they work closely with municipal police departments as their jurisdiction expands across the entire province!
One of the major concerns I hear from riders, (and hey, I’ve thought it too!) is: “Where ARE the Transit Police? I don’t see them except checking fares!”
The short answer is that they can’t be everywhere at once. Here’s the long answer:
Teams of two try to stay near the system to jump on and off the train if needed to be at emergencies quickly and spend lots of time on and near major bus loops. But they are constantly moving.
The breakdown of time is about 1/3 each for dealing with calls, administrative paperwork and patrolling the system.
A full Transit Police department is 110 officers. Right now, they are at about 103. And yes, they’re hiring if you’re interested!
There are the day and evening shifts with staffing 24/7. Officers are four days on and four days off. The split is about 10 units during the day and 12 (or more) in the peak afternoon and evening times.
However, I think it’s their service delivery model that is particularly interesting.
The new model in place now comes out of an independent report from Simon Fraser University that included surveys, workload analysis, time and motion and predictive analysis.
Transit Police implemented their suggestions to create a hub system.
There are 6 major hubs along the SkyTrain system where Transit Police officers report to and from. These are: Bridgeport, Waterfront, Broadway/Commercial, Metrotown, Lougheed and Surrey Central. There are smaller hubs at many other stations as well.
The hub stations were chosen based on the following criteria:
- Call density
- Volume of rail passengers
- Volume of bus traffic in loops
- Volume of bus passengers
- Customer perception of safety
This creates a type of geographical “beat” for officers on the system with zones they patrol allowing them to get to know the neighbourhoods and people.
This week we will be exploring intelligence led policing, communications with their Operations Communications Centre and the On Duty app.
Also, we’ll be looking at the 87-77-77 text line.
FYI! In one year, Transit Police received 31,000 texts with tips and concerns about situations on the system.
I’m genuinely learning a lot and I’m happy to pass that on to you, Buzzer readers. Look out for my new post next week!
Author: Adrienne Coling