Metro Vancouver Transit Police have reported a significant drop in crime rates and, in most instances, a drop in overall criminal activity in 2022 despite a big boost in ridership, compared to 2021.
“All of our stats are trending downward,” deputy chief Anita Furlan told TransLink’s board of directors at a public meeting Wednesday.
Although transit police oversaw a 46 per cent uptick in passengers in 2022, compared to 2021, the number of “crimes against persons” only went up 15 per cent, from 1,367 to 1,572 in total.
As such, the rate of crime per 100,000 passengers fell 21 per cent (0.61 to 0.48) year over year and the rate of property crime fell 33 per cent.
In fact, there were 33 fewer reports of property crime in 2022 despite passenger rides rising from 223 million in 2021 to 326 million in 2022.
The rate of Criminal Code violations per 100,000 passengers fell 55 per cent and the actual number fell 35 per cent, from 838 to 547, between 2021 and 2022.
Transit police handed out 104 fewer provincial violation tickets (4,138) and executed 858 arrest warrants, compared to 1,094 in 2021. And, transit officers cuffed just 439 people in 2022, compared to 480 in 2021 in regard to new incidents on the system.
Sexual offences on transit rose to 150 in 2022, compared to 138 in 2021; this falls below the 10-year average.
Pleased with the report, board member Andrea Reimer suggested the statistics fall in line with overall long-term crime rates and said media reports could provide for a skewed perception of public safety.
Furlan said she does not have any specific answer for as to why crime rates dropped so precipitously in 2022, although she suggested it could be a result of more officer presence on the transit routes. She hailed a new “community safety officer” program that will see 12 such officers fully trained by the end of this year. These CSOs will be peace officers who can only enforce the TransLink’s code of conduct and bylaws.
Furlan’s report does state that the crimes against persons rate for 2022 has not yet returned to the 2018 rate, but the property crime rate is lower than in 2018.
Furlan noted specifically that transit police officers filed 13 per cent more Mental Health Act apprehension files in 2022, although no one was sent to a prison cell as 76 per cent were committed, held, or voluntary admitted once at hospital or otherwise taken home.
In 2022, transit officers administered naloxone to 56 people, which is a “significant jump” when compared to 47 in 2021, 32 in 2020 and only 20 each year in 2017 to 2019, according to Furlan’s report, which stresses the importance of officers carrying the opioid overdose medicine.
Board member Andy Ross asked about body cameras being considered for transit police, to which Furlan said, “I certainly see that as something we will be moving to in the future,” as the provincial government mulls police reforms that may include such measures.