Over the past months, there have been a rash of assaults on Halifax Transit bus drivers and passengers, leading to growing concerns for public safety and the need for enhanced security measures.
Since November of 2022, the incidents of assaults on transit operators have been on the rise, as reported by Shane O’Leary, the president of ATU 508, the transit union in Halifax. According to him, 28 of these incidents were serious assaults or threats to life against transit operators. These assaults have caused serious concern within the community and have raised questions about the safety of passengers and employees alike.
On May 25, a bus driver was attacked by two teenagers who boarded the bus through the back doors after causing a disturbance. In another incident on June 19, a 16-year-old was charged with assault after a group of youth assaulted a bus driver during a disturbance. On September 21, a woman was assaulted by another woman on a stopped Halifax Transit bus at the 5500 block of Spring Garden Rd. The suspect managed to escape, and the police sought public assistance in identifying her. These incidents reflect a worrisome trend of escalating assaults on public transportation, necessitating immediate attention and action from the authorities.
The rise in assaults against transit operators and passengers has prompted serious concern among the transit union and authorities. ATU president Shane O’Leary reported an alarming 107% increase in incidents between 2018 and 2022. As of July, this year alone has already seen over 1,500 incidents involving disruptive passengers, fare disputes, intoxicated passengers, and road rage. This figure is expected to exceed 2,600 by the year’s end.
The escalating situation has urged Halifax Transit to back a proposed bylaw that would establish guidelines for safety and security on transit vehicles and premises. This bylaw aims to empower Halifax Transit to enforce safety rules and implement bans on offenders for up to six months.
Transit officials and union representatives have stressed the urgent need for enhanced security measures on buses. One notable measure is the installation of driver protection shields to safeguard drivers from physical attacks while operating the buses. However, critics argue that this step alone might not be sufficient to combat the escalating assaults. They say a multi-faceted approach to improve security and deter potential offenders is crucial.