Pubdate: Fri, 19 Jan 2007
Source: Burnaby Newsleader (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 Burnaby Newsleader
Author: Jeff Nagel
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
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TransLink's Transit Police will soon be armed with Tasers as well as handguns.

A big budget surplus last fall allowed the service to step up its 
plans to buy the electrical-charge weapons, considered a less lethal 
alternative to firearms.

"We have purchased 20 Tasers and we will be deploying them on the 
line when our people are trained," Insp. Daniel Dureau said.

He estimated it could be a couple of months before the devices are in use.

Some Transit Police constables will train as instructors and then be 
able to train the rest of the 100-officer force.

The service just ended its first full year since taking on new 
powers, uniforms and weapons in late 2005.

One of the big changes is the respect the force gets -- not just from 
law-abiding commuters, but also from those previously inclined to 
tussle with officers when they were special provincial constables not 
well identified as police.

"The assaults against our officers are about 50 per cent less," 
Dureau said. "As soon as our folks put on the uniform that said 
'Police' they stopped getting assaulted."

The previous force was severely limited in its ability to tackle 
crime on SkyTrain and couldn't leave TransLink property.

Final 2006 stats aren't tabulated, but Dureau said they will reflect 
the new service's broadened powers to arrest criminals and patrol the 
neighbourhoods outside SkyTrain stations.

"We were able to arrest literally dozens of people for outstanding 
warrants, which we couldn't do before," he said, adding one was a 
wanted murderer from Toronto discovered through a simple fare check.

"We were able to take people with drugs off the line and arrest them 
that we couldn't do before."

Most drug arrests -- nearly 60 per cent -- were for small amounts of 
marijuana. Twelve per cent were for cocaine possession.

Transit Police also had 21 complaints filed against members in the 
first 10 months of 2006. The most common allegation is that officers 
abused their authority, followed by claims of discreditable conduct, 
deceit and neglect of duty.

"Obviously, we'd like to have none," Dureau said, but added the 
number of complaints was typical for the size of the force.

"There's nothing in those complaints that's out of the ordinary."

The force expected to end 2006 spending about two per cent less than 
its $12.9 million budget.

The underspending is because officer recruitment hasn't gone as 
quickly as planned.

Dureau said it means a major push now to get more officers in place 
well ahead of the late 2009 opening of the Canada Line from Vancouver 
to Richmond and the airport.

About 44 more officers are needed to serve the rapid-transit 
extension, he said.

"We are going to be under the gun to hire enough people to ramp up in 
time," Dureau said.

But TransLink's decision to delay until 2011 the planned opening of 
the Evergreen light rail line to Port Moody and Coquitlam provides 
some "breathing room."

Another 40 officers would be needed when that line opens, possibly 
pushing the eventual size of the transit police force to between 200 and 250.

The Transit Police have also hired their own crime analyst.

She will be able to track data and trends, detecting crime hotspots 
and helping officers close in on repeat offenders.

"We can look back and start analyzing what crime happens where," 
Dureau said. "We're hoping this will head off some things that we'll 
be able to deal with early."

The analyst will work closely with counterparts in the other police 
forces around Greater Vancouver.
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