BC Transit is calling it the most horrific attack they have ever faced, after a Kelowna area bus driver was randomly stabbed with a syringe in the arm, allegedly by a woman well known to both operators and the RCMP.
Les Milton, the President of the Amalgamated Transit Union, calls the act cowardly.
"It is the first time we have ever seen anything like that. We have had operators stuck with needles before that were found on the buses, but we have never had anybody attacked with one."
Of the 52 million passenger trips in 2012 there were 42 operator assaults or attempted assaults recorded by BC Transit both in regional properties and Victoria.
However Milton says on a monthly basis there are assaults, yet not all of them are registered with BC Transit.
"Whether it is spitting on the driver, slapping the driver, to verbal abuse," he explains. "People assume we are just part of the machine and don't have any feelings."
BC Transit broke down the assaults into categories of:
- applied force
- attempted general bodily harm
- with a weapon
- a record of verbal assaults was not available.
When Castanet asked transit riders, how safe they felt when using the bus the overall consensus seemed to be they were generally in a safe environment. However many told us they do not ride the bus at night, or they chose not to sit next to strangers.
BC Transit does provide training for its operators, which includes diffusing volatile situations. Milton agrees the help is available, but says in the 20 years he's been in service times have changed, and not for the better.
"When I started it was called the shopper base, we had time to talk to people. Now we barley have time to grunt out what bus you are and put your foot to the pedal to get to the next stop," says Milton.
"I believe the system and my passengers and the riders and certainly my union members will tell you that they have cut all the PR time out of the runs."
The operator in this incident is recuperating, and Milton says the driver's spirits are high considering what he may be facing in the future, thanks to the possible contaminated syringe.
A 31-year-old Kelowna woman faces potential charges of Aggravated Assault, Possession of a Prohibited Weapon and Possession of a Controlled Substance.