WINNIPEG — The number of assaults against Winnipeg bus drivers continues to grow in 2017, after a female operator was assaulted with a weapon Saturday.
Amalgamated Transit Union president John Callahan said a female passenger was causing a disturbance on board, and was asked to leave by the operator. He said the passenger approached the driver, and slapped her in the face with a newspaper, and tore pieces of her work uniform.
“She’s shaken,” Callahan said. “When I talked with her she was pretty upset. She had a hard time talking to me.”
Winnipeg police constable Jason Michalyshen said no arrests have been made yet, and the investigation is continuing.
“Detectives will be following up with that. We’re just thankful the operator didn’t sustain any injuries,” Michalyshen said.
The assault was one of two incidents threatening bus drivers Saturday, according to Callahan.
Around midnight, Callahan said another driver received death threats from a passenger who was also causing a disturbance on board.
“He threatened to kill the driver and all passengers on board,” Callahan said.
So far in 2017, Callahan said more than 20 assaults have been reported to the transit union. He said there is a real concern with the amount of incidents that aren’t being recognized.
“Verbal assaults and spitting, there are literally hundreds that aren’t being reported,” Callahan said.
Right now, the union is waiting on a comprehensive report from the city, looking into current safety measures. It’s expected to take 90 days to complete, and after meeting with the acting Transit manager on Friday, Callahan said there is still no concrete timeline when issues will be addressed by the city.
“I think we could be moving a lot quicker,” he said.
Callahan said transit staff are now considering taking matters into their own hands, by pairing up on rides.
“A lot of members are wanting to do ride-alongs with operators in service.”
Constable Michalyshen said Winnipeg police officials are currently discussing ways to make city transit safer for everyone. He said officers try to ride the bus as often as they can, even if they aren’t working.
“When we have the opportunity to ride buses in uniform or plain clothes, we’ll certainly do that,” Michalyshen said.