B.C. Transit reported fewer altercations between passengers and bus drivers this year, compared to 2011, but violent attacks causing injury were up slightly, according to the latest data.
Three transit operators in the region, including one on Boxing Day, reported injuries they say came from assaults by passengers. That figure is up from 2011, when no drivers reported being harmed. But overall, the number of reported threats and aggressive behaviour has decreased, says B.C. Transit.
Fifty-six drivers reported incidents in 2012, down from 67 the year before. The decrease is good news, according to B.C. Transit spokeswoman Meribeth Burton, but more needs to be done to prevent attacks on drivers.
“We encourage anything that would be a deterrent,” including the push for stiffer penalties for those convicted of assaulting an operator, she said.
Transit supports the bus drivers’ union and its bid to have their members recognized as peace officers, a move that would put operators into a group with police, parking enforcement officers, border officials and corrections staff.
Assaults against peace officers are viewed as a more serious offence in the courts than typical assaults and typically come with a more severe punishment.
Canadian Auto Workers Local 333 said assaults on Greater Victoria drivers occur almost weekly, way up from the dozen or so assaults reported in a typical year about a decade ago.
Local 333 president Ben Williams discussed his members’ concerns last week after a bus driver was attacked near Uptown shopping centre on Boxing Day.
Saanich police say the 54-year-old bus driver was punched several times in the face after he asked a passenger to use the back door instead of the front door.
The driver was helping a wheelchair passenger out the front door at the time. The man refused, punched the driver and tried to get away. However, he was grabbed and held by several passengers until police arrived.
B.C. Transit’s data show a higher number of incidents reported on busier routes. The No. 14 had four criminal assaults in 2012, a category that can include grabbing, attempts to injure, spitting, assault causing harm and assault with a weapon. The No. 6 route had three criminal assaults recorded.
The figures come as no surprise to the Crown corporation’s manager of safety and security, Stephen Anderson, who says the busiest routes will likely see more incidents. Some drivers who take these routes regularly could experience more than one incident in their careers because the risk is higher, he said.
The No. 14 goes through several communities, including View Royal, Esquimalt, Saanich and Victoria. It makes stops at key destinations, such as the downtown core, the University of Victoria and Victoria General Hospital.
© Copyright 2013