More than 3,500 crimes plagued Metro's transit system in 2009, data shows.
By CHAD SKELTON, Vancouver Sun
METRO VANCOUVER - Broadway-Commercial and Surrey Central have more violent crime than any other transit stations in the region and Stadium has the most drug offences, according to an exclusive analysis of transit police data by The Vancouver Sun.
In response to a request from The Sun, the transit police service released a spreadsheet detailing all 28,000 incidents recorded by its officers in 2009.
The vast majority of those incidents were tickets for fare evasion, but transit police also recorded more than 3,500 crimes last year — everything from possession of stolen property to drug trafficking.
Unlike tickets for fare evasion, which have a series of spikes around lunchtime and the afternoon rush hour, the number of criminal incidents on transit rises fairly steadily throughout the day, peaking in the early evening between 6 and 8 p.m.
When it comes to violent crime — assaults, robberies, sexual assaults and weapons offences — Broadway-Commercial and Surrey Central are in a league of their own.
Both stations had more than 60 violent crimes last year.
Metrotown in Burnaby was a distant third at 26, followed by New Westminster at 25.
Transit police note Broadway-Commercial and Surrey Central are two of the busiest stations, both in the top five for overall ridership.
“They’re hubs,” Insp. Brian MacDonald said. “More people, more incidents.”
But the two stations’ ridership figures don’t fully explain their high crime rates.
Metrotown has more annual boardings than either Broadway-Commercial or Surrey Central, according to TransLink data, and the busiest station of all — Granville — is a distant 19th when it comes to violent crime.
The pattern is slightly different for drug offences.
Stadium station had the most drug crimes last year, with 70 offences for drug trafficking or drug possession.
Surrey Central was a close second with 59 drug crimes, and Metrotown was third at 45.
Insp. Keith Hammond said Stadium’s high number of drug crimes could be due to its proximity to the Downtown Eastside as well as the station’s design, which includes a large open plaza where drug users sometimes congregate.
Overall, transit police recorded a total of 769 incidents of possession of marijuana last year, making it by far the most common crime reported on the entire system.
Hammond said the large number of pot possession cases reflects the discomfort that marijuana smoking causes other commuters either sitting on a train or waiting on a platform.
“We’re trying to create an environment where it’s welcoming into the system,” he said. “We are trying to provide a service to everyone.”
He also noted that while transit police issue warnings to marijuana smokers and confiscate their joints, they rarely pursue criminal charges.
Indeed, of 769 pot possession incidents last year, only 21 resulted in charges, mainly situations in which there were aggravating factors, police say, such as a repeat offender.
Transit police cautioned that the figures released to The Sun don’t give the entire picture when it comes to crime at transit stations.
That’s because jurisdictional police — such as Vancouver police and Richmond RCMP — often respond to crime at or near transit stations and their files aren’t included in transit police data.
While transit police have access to those other files, they said they couldn’t give them to The Sun because they don’t have authority to release detailed crime data collected by other agencies.
However, last fall, transit police did release figures on the number of violent crimes reported by both its officers and jurisdictional police within a 100-metre radius of each transit station.
Those figures, like the numbers compiled by The Sun, show Broadway-Commercial and Surrey Central are the most violent stations, with 212 and 171 crimes apiece in 2008-09. Those stations are followed by Granville at 131, Gateway at 105 and Metrotown at 92.
Comparing the crime at each station to how busy they are, Gateway had the highest violent crime rate, with 8.97 crimes per 100,000 boardings, followed by Surrey Central (7.51), Columbia (3.94), Broadway-Commercial (3.94) and Waterfront (3.91).
Transit police also reported last fall that overall crime on the transit system had dropped by a third in the last year and nearly in half at Surrey Central.
The data supplied to The Sun included information for Canada Line stations. However, because the line only opened in August last year, those stations recorded just a handful of crimes each.
The information for Canada Line stations also has some data-quality concerns because, according to transit police, some incidents that actually occurred at Broadway-Commercial were wrongly entered into the system as Broadway-City Hall by data-entry staff.