Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Searches Not Required for Vancouver Translink Security - Doug Kelsey

The public needs to know that there are no significant threats currently indicated toward the transit system that would justify random searches.

On principle, any security measure must be used strategically so as not to send confusing messages. For example, the public should reasonably expect something like random searches to be used as a way to address specific issues, such as the illegal transport of alcohol to events like the Festival of Lights.

That said, SkyTrain, West Coast Express and TransLink are already taking measures to ensure the security of the public. We initiated discussions with the federal government for funding for these measures, for which Ottawa is investing more than $17 million with us on a 3:1 cost-sharing basis. We took the lead in setting up a national transit intelligence-sharing system, and have had significant outside review of our security measures. On the morning of the London terrorist attacks in 2005, we were well-informed.

Our excellent front-line staff receive training in awareness of suspicious activity and anything else that "just doesn't seem right." Changing the special provincial constables to a fully constituted police force was another measure aimed at enhancing security. In addition, as was reported by Global TV recently, we have just completed a full upgrade of our video surveillance system from analog to high-quality digital recording.

SkyTrain and West Coast Express stations are undergoing continuing upgrades, with lighting on Expo Line stations being improved to the levels at Millennium Line stations, and more retail presence in and around stations, thus providing for more "eyes and ears" on the system. The planned expansion of Broadway and Main Street stations also will go a long way towards supporting security goals. We anticipate that more stations will be redeveloped in the future.

The public is encouraged to become additional "eyes and ears" by picking up the security phone at SkyTrain stations or using the intercom or "yellow strip" silent alarm in each SkyTrain vehicle. Messages encouraging the public to "see it -- say it" are already appearing at SkyTrain stations, and we will soon be rolling out other security-related measures.

At this time, there is no cause to adopt random searches of our customers, as there is no circumstance or threat level that warrants such intrusive measures. The cost of inconveniencing the public and needlessly raising the fear level would far outweigh any security benefit.

Doug Kelsey is the CEO of BC Rapid Transit Co. (SkyTrain and West Coast Express).