Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New HD Cameras at Calgary Transit Station ID Sexual Assault Criminals

A 19-year-old woman sleeping on an LRT platform was allegedly raped by a 15-year-old as his friend provided a lookout -- a crime police say they solved quickly with the help of high-definition cameras recently installed at the station.

The sexual assault happened at 3:40 a.m. Sunday at the Heritage station during a two-hour break in train service.

"This particular incident is extremely rare for transit. We do, in any given year, get a number of reported incidents which are typically more of a fondling, someone's touching somebody," said Brian Whitelaw, Calgary Transit's co-ordinator of public safety and enforcement.

"The case of a serious sexual assault like this is extremely rare in the system. (If) it happens even once a year, is generally the most that we would see."

That may be the case, but C-Train riders at the Heritage station said Monday they have some reservations about safety on the system.

"I just don't like taking transit at night. From things I've seen in the newspaper, I just try to avoid those situations completely," said Beth Hilker.

Another rider, Justine Big Crow, said she would like to see more security officers.

"I'd like to see more policemen, peace officers. I never see them," she said.

Police say the victim had been at the station for 11/2 hours and was sleeping after a night out with friends. She was waiting for train service to resume when a pair of 15-year-olds came upon her and allegedly forced her to have intercourse.

"The victim didn't have a way to get home at that time, so she just decided to sleep it off at the LRT platform," said sex crimes unit Staff Sgt. Dave Louie.

"It appeared to be more of a crime of opportunity, where the two offenders were at the LRT platform also and came across the victim, who was sleeping or passed out, and one of them decided to sexually assault her," said the officer.

The woman went to the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre a couple hours after the attack and the assault was reported to police, who characterized her physical injuries as minor.

Police were able to issue clear photographs to media of the suspects, and later Sunday, received a tip about their identities. One teen is charged with sexual assault and the other is charged with being a party to a sexual assault.

The photographs cannot be published because the suspects are now known to be minors.

By examining the video, police say they believe the pair also robbed another man who was sleeping at the station, but the victim has not come forward to file a complaint.

Whitelaw said C-Train stations across the city are being outfitted with new high-definition cameras that he described as leading-edge in North America. He said the new cameras, which replace an analogue system, provide higher resolution digital images and are better in low light situations.

The Heritage train station only recently got its new cameras, he said.

At any given time, there are four people monitoring the hundreds of cameras in the city, but no one noticed the robbery or sexual assault as they happened, said Whitelaw.

While the robbery footage is clear, the video of the sexual assault is less so, he said.

"Once we have an opportunity to talk to the police in this case, and determine exactly what the details are, we're also going to take a look to see if there's any innovations or changes in policy or procedure that we could implement that would maybe make it another step safer," said Whitelaw.

Police said they would like the robbery victim, who appeared to have his wallet taken, to come forward.

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