'Have to be careful:' Recent attacks at Edmonton's Coliseum LRT station raise alarm

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“It’s unacceptable. Our transit system in our communities should be safe. We have invested a lot into our transit system. It’s the backbone for a lot of Edmontonians, and they deserve to feel safe while riding on transit.”

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Dianne Caligiuri rides Edmonton’s LRT almost daily, and has started to lose track of all of the violence that’s occurred at its stations and platforms over this past year.

“When you hear about someone getting stabbed or badly hurt… yeah, it’s scary. I can’t even keep up anymore with how many things are happening.”

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Attacks at the Coliseum LRT station in the last month include an assault that left a 55-year-old woman unconscious and in critical condition — two 12-year-old girls were arrested and charged — and the case of a 58-year-old man assaulted after exiting the station to board a bus. In both cases, city police are asking for any witnesses who saw the attacks to come forward with any information.

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“It worries me a lot,” said Clyde Deri, who has been taking public transit almost every day for the past six years.

“One time I was on crutches coming back from school after I injured myself playing basketball, and some random guy just kicked my crutches out from under me and I fell. I didn’t know what he was going to do to me.”

According to data provided by the Edmonton Police Service (EPS), since Friday, there have been 2,433 reports called into police so far this year regarding incidents at all of the city’s LRT and transit centres. Nearly 27 per cent of those calls have involved violent crimes and weapons. Churchill LRT Station leads among city stations with 302 occurrences, while Coliseum LRT Station ranks second with 293 occurrences followed by Central Station (213), Southgate Station (206) and Belvedere Station (199).

Coliseum LRT station
Transit users board a train at the Coliseum LRT station, in Edmonton Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

Police ask those who take transit to take all the precautions necessary to ensure their safety. Some tips they suggest on the EPS website recommend users stay in high visibility locations at bus stops and train stations. Riders should also ensure they are positioned to see others approaching and others can see them whenever possible.

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Police add it is better to travel in groups if possible and to choose well-lit bus stops and train stations, especially when travelling at night.

In July, after 52-year-old Rukinisha Nkundabatware was stabbed to death by a stranger at the Belvedere LRT station.Jamal Joshua Malik Wheeler, 27, is charged with second-degree murder in the case.

Edmonton Metis ward councillor Ashley Salvador shares the same concerns as many transit riders regarding the ongoing violence at transit hubs like Coliseum LRT.

“I’m concerned and saddened with the series of recent violent attacks that have taken place at the Coliseum LRT station,” said Salvador.

“At the end of the day we want everyone to feel safe and comfortable to take our transit system. It shouldn’t be up to our citizens to have to step in. It takes collaboration with the city and EPS. The province needs to be at the table as well and when I think about how long we’ve been talking about transit in our city… everyone knows it’s a priority.”

Salvador has seen the data and numbers from EPS regarding the increased number of violent incidents across the city’s LRT and bus stations, and she hopes that police can use the data effectively to deter the number of incidents, moving forward.

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“I am incredibly concerned with the data that is out there. My hope is that it’s being used as proactively through EPS in deploying the right measures in place,” said Salvador.

“It’s unacceptable. Our transit system in our communities should be safe. We have invested a lot into our transit system. It’s the backbone for a lot of Edmontonians, and they deserve to feel safe while riding on transit.”

Caligiuri feels that police and the city are doing everything they can to control the violence and it’s up to the public to step up and help when conditions permit.

“Not only is it the responsibility of the city, it’s the responsibility of the public. When they see an incident happening, I think they should report it, or go check on the person, unless the person has a weapon,” said Caligiuri.

Coliseum LRT station
An emergency phone is visible in the foreground as transit users disembark at the Coliseum LRT station, in Edmonton Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

“People need to step up more and not be so scared and involve themselves. I see a lot of people terrified to get involved because they don’t know if the person has a weapon or not. I’m the type of person that if I see something going on, I’ll go check (as long as they don’t have a weapon). It doesn’t take five minutes if someone is lying down on the ground to go check and see if they’re alive or OK.

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“The police and the peace officers can only do so much, but the public should be more concerned about one another.”

When Caligiuri takes public transit, she makes sure to take the necessary to keep herself safe.

“I’ll get a ride if I can. Or, I’ll have my son come meet me at a bus stop or LRT station if it’s late. You have to be careful.”

Dawn Thomson has been taking public transit and the LRT on a regular basis over the last six months, and while she’s never felt threatened on the train, she definitely has concerns.

“It’s definitely a worry. I think it would worry anybody.”

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    ‘Completely random’: Edmonton police seek suspect after attack on city bus near Coliseum LRT station

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jhills@postmedia.com

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