By Lethbridge Herald on October 17, 2023.
The YWCA Lethbridge and District kicked off their annual Week Without Violence on Monday with transit and public transportation safety as their theme for 2023.
Director of External Relations Cat Champagne spoke to media Monday morning during the kick-off event and said the week without violence is an initiative that has been going on for more than 20 years in YWCAs across Canada and internationally.
“During that week we focus on advocacy ways that we can bring representation to our local communities about things that can impact domestic violence, violence against women, violence against children, and letting people know that there are supports in their community,” said Champagne.
She said the YWCA is hosting an array of events during the week and will be offering ways that people can get involved, learn more about how they can help going forward.
“Today is our kick-off and we have a partnership with the City of Lethbridge and The Watch through Lethbridge Police as far as the Park and Ride building here in downtown Lethbridge, and with that we are looking to show some of the features and expanded measures they’ve done to make sure that this facility is safe,” said Champagne.
She said that since the 2023 theme is transportation safety and being safe in your own community ,the YWCA wanted to highlight some of the safety measures that are in place so people can feel comfortable when accessing public transit.
“A lot of our women and children do rely on public transportation to get around, so having safety measures in place for them is really important. Things like being able to jump on a bus if you’re trying to flee a situation locally and knowing that you’ll be transported safely, that there’s access to 911 on that bus, just knowing that as you go around, as you transport yourself throughout the city that there are measures to keep everyone safe,” said Champagne.
When it comes to the safety measures put in place in the Park and Ride building, manager of innovation and planning with the City of Lethbridge, Joel McDonald said the City has done a big culture shift, focusing on increasing safety and customer service.
“For security measures we have on-site security with Paladin, they’re providing enhanced security services throughout the entire day, being a lot more vigilant in managing security. We’ve also got 24-hour security system cameras, we’ve increased the lighting around the building to increase the safety, we’ve made some changes inside the building,” said McDonald.
He said some of those changes include removing some walls, or adding others, to remove corners where unwanted behaviours could occur. Chairs are bolted to the floor, the parking office is now located in the building and the City has also moved transit customer service to the facility. Those offices have big windows that allows those inside to keep an eye on people going through the building during work hours.
“The buses are extremely safe, as well. We’ve got cameras that can record video and audio on the buses, the operators have access with radios to the dispatch centre transit, and in an event of emergency they can activate an emergency response button that will tie directly into the 911 centre, so we can get police, fire and EMS responding for any sort of emergency on any of our buses,” said McDonald.
And as far as The Watch’s role in the partnership with the YWCA during the week without violence, manager Shane Kisinger said that organization adds an extra layer of security to the downtown core by providing “safe walks.”
“If you have any concerns getting here (to Park and Ride) and you are in the downtown core, we have a program called the ‘Safe Walk.You call 403-715-WALK or 403-715-9255 and we can escort you – let’s say your workplace in the downtown core – to the park and ride,” said Kisinger.
He said people can also ask for a safe walk from Park and Ride to anywhere in the downtown core once they arrive at the facility.
“If you’re coming here and you are going somewhere in the downtown core, we do that as well,” said Kisinger.
He said since the safety measures increased at the facility, he has seen a decrease in calls for The Watch service in the area.
“This used to be our number one place that had the most stars on our map for problem issues and it’s definitely not that anymore,” said Kisinger.