TransLink launched a new campaign March 31 to elevate awareness of assault and harassment cases against bus drivers. The campaign is called “Don’t Touch The Operator” and was announced at a news conference in New Westminister.
Metro Vancouver Transit Police, Coast Mountain Bus Company, bus drivers union Unifor 111 and several victimized bus drivers were in attendance.
A new campaign video was released during the news conference. “When bus operators come to work they have the right to complete their shift without the fear of being assaulted or violence,” transit police Const. Kevin Goodmurphy said in the campaign video.
The video added that “passengers who are aware of a developing problem upon a bus can notify the transit police by discreetly sending information such as a brief description of the problem and the bus number and location by using the transit police code 87-77-77. In an emergency situation, 911 should be called.”
Harsher sentences not the answer
Last week TransLink appealed to the federal government for tougher consequences in cases where a driver is assaulted.
However, one Langara instructor doesn’t think harsher sentences will help. “Simply increasing the severity of a sentence likely won’t have a measurable impact for that kind of crime. There’s not a lot of data and research there to support simply increasing the penalty will actually reduce the offending,” said Catherine Huth, chair of Langara’s criminal justice department.
Spokesperson for Unifor 111 Ruth Armstrong believes the public plays the strongest role in reducing assaults on drivers. “The public has the power to change it more so than any employee under TransLink,” she said.
Passengers need to be more patient: spokesperson
Understanding is crucial for both commuters and bus drivers. “Our operators are under a lot of pressure out there,” Armstrong said. “As far as our scheduling goes, as far as our work goes, our work is being cut, our schedules are being cut, and of course the passengers are feeling that.”
She stressed that drivers empathize with commuters when, for instance, a 25-minute commute ends up taking closer to an hour. “We get it. We take transit ourselves, our family takes transit.”
Reported by Graham McFie