Langley City bus loop safety under microscope

Another high-profile violent attack near the Langley City bus terminus has police and civic officials talking about safety and crime prevention.

Mayor Ted Schaffer, Supt. Murray Power of the Langley RCMP, and Transit Police Chief Neil Dubord and acting deputy chief Ed Eviston gathered at City hall Wednesday morning to talk about what can and can’t be done to curb future violence.

The incident that sparked the discussion took place at the end of November.

On Nov. 29, Chris Lafrenier was jumped by two teenagers who knocked him down, kicked him in the head, and robbed him. Lafrenier’s family said he was headed home with his tools on work belts at the time from near the bus terminus.

The site of the attack was near the 5500 block of 203rd Street, according to RCMP Const. Craig Van Herk.

Two suspects were arrested a short distance away and have been charged, but the incident is the latest in the downtown, many of them connected with the bus loop or transit.

• June 17, a young man was stabbed in the neck and chest by another young man, who was arrested a short distance from the scene. The two men knew each other and both were known to police.

• May 20, Leah MacKay threatened to kill another woman’s children while on a bus headed through Langley to the Willowbrook mall. She threw a drink at the youngest child, then not a year old, and got into a fist fight with the mother, then followed them off the bus and chased them with a knife. MacKay pleaded guilty in August after having been held in jail since the incident.

• May 3, an intoxicated man passed out before arriving at the bus loop on a shuttle bus. When two drivers asked him to get off the bus, he tried to punch both drivers, then pulled a knife and tried to stab a waiting bus passenger, missing them all. Two passerby disarmed him, and RCMP arrested him a short time later.

In addition, there have been other violent incidents downtown, notably an attack with a hammer Oct. 18 on a Good Samaritan who stepped into the middle of an attempted robbery of a woman near the 7-Eleven.

Eviston said that a number of programs or changes are expected soon from the Transit Police, who oversee buses, SkyTrains, and SeaBuses with 167 officers.

Daily patrols are already under way at the bus loop on Logan Avenue, Eviston said. A Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) study was also done and more lighting for the loop is being considered.

City manager Francis Cheung said a similar study has led to work underway now to improve lighting and add a security camera at Innes Plaza, just down the street from the loop.

Transit Police can’t put up a camera of their own at the bus loop, however.

Dubord said privacy laws mean that police need a specific recurring crime as a justification for a camera. Cameras in SkyTrain stations are technically there to watch for safety issues such as trips and falls, he said.

The Langley RCMP is making a number of changes in the City and elsewhere, including stationing some officers in Community Police Offices full time, adding a dedicated officer who will work with the mentally ill.

Over the last year, officers have increased patrols in the City at night, which has had a notable effect, Power said.

Despite the violent incidents spread out over the last year, the bus loop does not register as a “hot spot” when the police are tracking crime throughout the Langleys, Power said. A hot spot would see numerous crimes over a shorter period of time, such as a series of break and enters in one neighbourhood or car thefts from a few blocks.

Violent incidents recently in the community have not been serial events, Power said – each incident seems to be separate and unrelated to the others.

Schaffer said the City is undertaking a number of projects, some of them soon and some in the longer term. A crime prevention task force will be set up and will meet monthly to try to deal with crime proactively, Schaffer said.

The City is also looking at working with the Cascades Casino, which is near the bus loop and has security cameras of its own.

“We’re in the midst of working extremely hard on this,” Schaffer said.

In the longer term, the plan is to move the entire bus loop to 203rd Street at the current site of Langley Concrete and Tile.

That will only happen when and if the landowner there decides to sell and redevelop, said Cheung. The City doesn’t have the funds to expropriate that much land and rebuild.

The City has also spent years trying to talk to the owners of the mall adjacent to the bus loop, but the owners have showed little interest in selling and redeveloping in a way that would change the streetscape.

Similar issues surrounding crime and transit properties have arisen in other communities, including recently in the Township. In the last few months, an aggressive panhandler attacked and injured a man at the Carvolth Exchange bus loop in Willoughby.

The Langley RCMP and Transit Police were also set to launch a joint effort to catch a thief who was stealing catalytic converters off vehicles parked there, when a Mountie spotted a suspicious vehicle and caught a suspect red-handed under a car.

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