Transit police to tweet warnings for fare evaders

Lower Mainland Transit Police have decided to give advance warning of where they will be checking for fare evaders starting this fall.

TransLink announced that it will send notes to traffic reporters and that it will post updates through Twitter of where and when some SkyTrain fare stings will run.

TransLink estimates it loses $7 million a year through fare evasion. Some cheaters are never caught, but for those that are, a loophole in the law meant that TransLink couldn't force them to pay fines.

Blair Lekstrom, B.C.'s minister of transportation, took on the issue and came up with Bill 51, which empowered TransLink to collect those old fines.

The new legislation also gave Transit Police officers greater power to go after fare evaders, which is what they will be doing in September.

Anne Drennan, a Transit Police spokesperson, said that the strategy TransLink is running this fall is called "informed compliance."

"Very often, if police inform the public where a speed trap is or radar is positioned, they slow down because they know that they're going to be caught if they don't," she said.

"In this case, we believe that people will buy their tickets because they know the police are going to be out there."

Jordan Bateman, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, doesn't think it makes much sense to tell people about a fare trap beforehand.

"There should be a constant sense of uneasiness in your stomach that, you know, someone might be checking your fare. So, [it doesn't work] telling people specifically: 'Oh, by the way, today we're checking at Metrotown. If you're getting on at Royal Oak, maybe you'll slide through," he said.

Drennan said that Transit Police won't be stationed exclusively at the stations they've pre-announced, but that those locations are simply where enforcement will be stepped-up on certain days.

Drennan said that the point of the aim of fare policing isn't to write more tickets to fare evaders — the aim is to encourage more people to buy a pass or ticket beforehand.

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