More details on SkyTrain crime in New Westminster

Last September I wrote that New Westminster’s SkyTrain safety statistics challenged our community’s assumptions about crime issues at our five SkyTrain stations. First of all, crime is generally down. Secondly, when measuring overall incidences of crime per 100,000 passengers, 22nd St. Station turned out to be worse than the much busier New Westminster station.

Last September I wrote that New Westminster’s SkyTrain safety statistics challenged our community’s assumptions about crime issues at our five SkyTrain stations. First of all, crime is generally down. Secondly, when measuring overall incidences of crime per 100,000 passengers, 22nd St. Station turned out to be worse than the much busier New Westminster station.

But one thing that  I didn’t have was insight into just what kind of crime we were talking about. Fare evasion was lumped in with more serious crimes like assault and drug possession in the data I had access to. But I just saw that the Vancouver Sun has produced a series of infographics on SkyTrain crime (violent crime and drug crime) as part of a bigger series on public transit issues in Vancouver.

The Sun’s graphics show:

  • New Westminster SkyTrain Station is the most violent station in New Westminster, and the fourth most violent in the whole line, with 26 incidents of violent crime reported in 2009. Eleven were related to weapons possession and 12 for assault. (The top three most violent stations in Metro Van are Broadway, Surrey Central and Metrotown.)
  • 22nd St. is the next most violent station in New West, but it is in the middle of the pack in Metro Van. Nine of the crimes are assaults, with four robberies and two sexual assaults.

In terms of drug-related crime:

  • New Westminster Station tops our local list again in terms of number of offences, but it’s almost all pot possession
  • Other stations in New West were fairly low on the list compared to other parts of Metro Van. Almost all the problems related to marijuana possession, though there was also some cocaine possession. Braid Station had one incident of drug trafficking.

Again, to put it all into perspective, TransLink moves around 700,000 riders daily. In all of 2009, there were just 26 incidents of violent crime and 27 of drug-related crime recorded at New Westminster’s eponymous “worst’ SkyTrain station. And, as I mentioned last time, the risk of death related to driving is six times higher than the risk of being a victim of any sort of crime in or around the least safe station on the line.

Briana Tomkinson

Briana Tomkinson is a Montreal-based writer and original founder of Tenth to the Fraser. She really likes to write letters by hand.

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  1. The per 100,000 passengers is a fantastic metric, it really puts things in to perspective and gives a fairer picture of crime at Skytrain Stations.

    Showing that per 100,000 passengers New West Station is actually safer also adds evidence to the argument the best tool to reduce crime is eyes on the street. You talked about evaluating statistics when it comes to crime in a post earlier this week, when taking how busy a station is in to account, there is clearly a correlation that the busier a station the safer you are.

    And logically this make sense, you're in a crowd, just like traveling herds of animals. You're less likely to be picked off, and there's more people around to defend you.

    It also shows why from a safety perspective, not just a land planning one, development around rapid transit stations makes so much sense. As New West Station has built out, the drug and crime problems it used to be known for have evaporated. Contrarily, Surrey Central, which is also a VERY busy station still maintains crime issues because there isn't development within the immediate vicinity of the station. Sure you have SFU Surrey and the mall, but those are across a parking lot and only open during daytime hours. The station becomes a very lonely and dark place at night.

    Then there's the issue of what you define as a crime at the Skytrain Station. I know some managers at Translink lament the media reporting crimes as being "at" a Skytrain station despite being 2-3 blocks away and completely unrelated to the transit system. Rapid transit stations don't bring crime to a community, your community makeup does, do you have a cohesive community with eyes on the street, a strong blockwatch program and similar crime deterrents. I've never seen any stats that show increased crime levels in the neighbourhoods around Skytrain stations on a PER CAPITA basis (raw stats are a false measure since rapid transit stations DO tend to have a higher density around them).

    As for the drug stats, cannabis possession? Come on, those count, really? I can honestly say I've never tried the stuff myself (yes, hard to believe for a Green Party candidate, unless you count the Snoop Dogg concert years ago where the clouds floating around GM Place were so thick a second-hand smoke high is a definite possibility), but really? The green bars on that graph should definitely be ignored when looking at it. 🙂

    1. If you are safer in a busier station, how come the busiest stations have the highest crime rates ? Lake City looks pretty attractive on the graphs, and is probably the least busy station anywhere on skytrain !
      Do you really think drug and crime problems in new west have evaporated ? Sounds like you have maybe become a client…. You cant walk anywhere in the 'lower triangle' of new west without seeing incidents of drugs and crimes. The reason the charges are possession is because the cops cant be bothered to go through the hassle of trying to prove a trafficking charge – they know full well these are dealers, but, unless you have video evidence, the charge will never stick. So they slap them with possession which is all they can get.
      Skytrain doesnt bring crime to a neighbourhood, you are right. It brings criminals. Criminals commit crimes, skytrains don't. Guns don't kill, people do. And the internet doesnt make porn, it just delivers it… that and the uneducated, grossly slanted, poorly conceived rants of the ill-informed.

      1. Hi Aidan,

        I think the idea is that while more incidents of crime happen at busier stations, the likelihood of crime (i.e. incidents per 100,000 people) is often lower. The type of crime is also sometimes different, for example more drug dealing but less violent crime. It of course varies from station to station, as the graphs above show.

    2. I agree with many points, but transit spreads criminals from community to community.

      And you must be privy to the bystander effect: it's a harrowing thing to see people not help someone in distress, and it's more likely to be ignored the busier the station. Let's hope that changes.

  2. Not long ago there was a letter to the editor in one of our local papers on the topic of shoes on a powerline means that there are drugs for sale in the area. I was not aware of this and scoped it out and there is not a definitive answer as to this being an urban myth or not. Anyway, as I was walking out of the New Westminster Skytrain Station, I notice a pair of shoes tied together hanging over a wire. Yet interestingly the above graph shows no drug trafficing at that station.

  3. A number of years ago I heard about the shoes on the power line "signal" and so asked the NWPS community policing staff person about it. I was assured that this is an urban myth and that it is not true.

    It might be a good idea to contact our local electrical utility though to let them know about the shoes. 🙂

  4. Over the years I've very-often spotted shoes repeatedly and consistently put-up on the power-lines across Le Bleu street at Brunette avenue. I doubt very much that there is nothing behind this.

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