Monday, August 11, 2014

The SkyTrain is not the crime train

One of the things that I sometime hear is that rail-based transit brings crime to an area. In fact, many people believe that SkyTrain increases crime and brings “undesirable” people to an area. The association between crime and SkyTrain came from a Master’s Thesis by Jennifer Buckley in 1996 called “Public Transit and Crime: A Routine Activities/Ecological Approach.” Buckley found that 49% of Vancouver Police Department call-outs were within 750m of a SkyTrain station. To some people, this seemed like a smoking gun linking increased criminal activity to the SkyTrain system. While the media certainly had a heyday with the report back in the day, the full story was never told. SkyTrain runs through some of the highest-density areas in our region; it should come as no surprise that where there is more people, there is more crime in general.

Other studies since the mid-90s have come out that show that there is no link between rail-based public transit and crime in North America. While these studies provided good information, there was no study in Metro Vancouver that looked at crime in areas before and after the introduction of SkyTrain. That was until earlier this year.

I found a TransLink commissioned report called “The Changing Morphology of Crime in Communities Serviced by Skytrain” by Linh Riddick. The report was commissioned to see if the introduction of the Canada Line caused an increase in crime in the surrounding Canada Line station areas, and to lay the groundwork to study crime before and after the introduction of the Evergreen Line which is slated to open in 2016.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Lower Mainland Crimes Against the Person, 2008 - 2012. Select image to enlarge.

Riddick found that crimes against people such as robberies and assaults are down throughout the region and that "although some have made the argument that the introduction of new Skytrain stations has caused increases in crime, a comparison of the maps... would contradict this theory."

Lower Mainland Property Crime, 2008 - 2012. Select image to enlarge.

On property crime, Riddick found that:

Although the Canada Line opened in August 2009, the analysis of crime data indicates that the hotspots of violent crime in the areas surrounding these light-rail stations pre-existed the introduction of new line. Similarly, the Coquitlam Centre area which will be the future terminus of the Evergreen Line has also been an area of concentration for property crime in the region for several years.

It would seem that SkyTrain does not cause an increase in crime in an area. I would suggest that it actually causes an area to get better. Just look at all the positive change happening around the SkyTrain stations in Surrey.

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