TransLink customers petition for more “security”

This makes me uneasy:

(Note the difference in terminology between the CBC’s title and mine: We pay for it; therefore, we are customers. Let’s not make believe that the government is doing us a favour by providing public transit. It comes out of our own pockets.)

Here’s the gist of the thing:

Hundreds of SkyTrain riders signed a petition on Monday calling on TransLink to increase patrols, beef up security cameras and improve lighting at stations.

This is of course in response to a number of well-publicized assaults around SkyTrain stations — particularly Nanaimo station, where they circulated the petition — in the past year or so.

It seems like a reasonable demand. After all, the grand Canadian myth is that the government will take care of us — thus the Canada Pension Plan, Employment Insurance, single-payer health care, and (in particular, in this context) strict laws against self-defence and a high-powered police presence. TransLink has gone so far as to provide its own police force. Surely, if they claim that they’ll keep us safe, we ought to insist that they do so… right?

Well, there lies the problem.

The only person who can keep you safe is you.

It is foolish to expect someone else — particularly someone who’s merely doing s/h/its job — to care more about whether you live or die than you do yourself. It is, however, what we’ve been told and conditioned to expect. And — here’s the thing — TransLink does a fantastic job trying to achieve this impossible goal.

I see far more of TransLink’s cops than I do — or ever have — of any other police force, ever. Granted, they have a smaller beat to patrol, but the point stands. The fact that Transit cops aren’t likely to be around when you need them says far, far more about the nature of civilian law enforcement than it does about transit cops.

SkyTrain stations make juicy targets not because transit cops are few and far between, but because they’re high-traffic areas — there are simply far more potential victims walking through SkyTrain stations than there are along your average sidewalk. (Many SkyTrain stations include ATMs, which only makes things worse.) As we’ve discussed, muggers are able simply to wait until the transit cops leave, then pick a distracted victim (perhaps one who has just visited an ATM) and go to town.  Doubling the number of transit cops may ameliorate the situation, but it won’t solve the problem — and one can’t simply double the number of officers in a police force; there must still be standards for law enforcement personnel.  Eventually, the pool of qualified applicants dries up, and all the budget in the world won’t change that.

Doubling the number of “security” cameras seems like a reasonable idea, until one recalls that surveillance cameras are simply incapable of preventing crime: the only people who know that you’re in danger are on the other end of that camera.  They may not be paying attention; and if they are, what are they going to do about it?  If no transit cops are in the area, none will be able to reach you in time to help you, no matter how adroitly they can be directed via CCTV.

Improving lighting in and around SkyTrain stations is a damn good idea; it has been shown to work very well; and I entirely endorse it.  The only problem is that TransLink is already doing it. I suppose we can see this part of the petition as a vote of confidence.

In short, TransLink is probably doing the best it can to keep its customers safe.  It’s inadequate to the task, and it always will be.  No-one can keep you safe but you.

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anarchocapitalist agitprop

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