Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘security

Weekly Photo Challenge: Security

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Policia Especializada Cuba Comandancia

I did a bit of searching to try and find out what the Specialised Police might do. But it seems likely that security concerns prevent that information from being released. Wikipedia had some generalised information about policing – but does not give much information. And some maps identify the location as The Old City Police station. It is clearly some ancient fortification – one of several around the entrance to the port. Which, at one time, needed protection especially from British privateers – the original Pirates of the Caribbean. Of course modern weaponry made such fortifications obsolete and in most places they become museums and tourist attractions. Cuba, of course, is different. Castles – like the Tower of London – have always done double duty as places of confinement – again usually in the name of “security”. One of those splendidly flexible and ill defined terms, and deliberately kept that way. All kinds of things are done in its name including deliberately overstepping all the formal controls most countries place on the power of the state to spy, detain and maltreat those it feels might be threatening it. Security of the state trumps security of the person not just in places like Cuba – for 50 years condemned by the United States for its supposed excesses in limiting the freedom of its citizens and supposed threats to its far bigger, more powerful neighbour – but also the location of the US Naval base at Guantanamo Bay and site of some of the US’s most egregious (and illegal) excesses in the name of security. It doesn’t look anything like this, of course.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 5, 2017 at 11:53 am

Posted in photography

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The SkyTrain Security “Unconference”

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The following is taken from a message sent out by Karen Fung to people who attended the Vancouver Transit Camp. It casts an interesting light on how Translink is beginning to get to grips with openness and social media – or rather some of their staff are. It is probably too much to expect that the corporate culture will change as long as the present governance arrangements continue.

For those of you who may have wondered, “So what did TransLink ever
think of Vancouver Transit Camp?” I have a bit of an answer for you.

About 3 weeks ago, TransLink approached me to help them put together a
blog and an unconference to try and change up the way they engage with
the community of transit users. The topic? Security on SkyTrain. (Yes,
*that* firecracker!)

So far, the public engagement team at TransLink have been open and
awesome to learning what makes unconferences what they are – that would
be you, the members of the community, of course! Doug Kelsey, the CEO of
SkyTrain, has expressed his support and excitement for hearing more from
community members, both on the blog and at the event (taking place on
October 4th), and I’m stoked to see this coming from the top.

At the same time, I’ve also been doing a little schooling with the team
at TransLink, talking to them about being little less blog shy and more
comfortable with organizing in the open. I’ll also be co-facilitating
with Susan, someone with loads of experience in public engagement (both
with and outside of TransLink) and who’s been wonderfully open in
learning about social media.

I would like to invite Vancouver Transit Campers to take a look at the
blog I’ve set up for the unconference – it’s located at:

Tell all your transit-oriented loved ones too! 🙂 It’s in beta, so your
feedback would be great too.

I’m all about making this a platform where absolutely anyone can tell
their story about how they feel about security on SkyTrain, why, and the
experiences that have shaped that thinking. If you’d like to contribute
250-500 words, a photo essay, an interpretive dance, what have you –
send an e-mail my way and we’ll make it so!

As for the unconference itself, we’re starting to pull the details
together in the next week or two. Stay tuned on the blog for that!

I can always use some help too! Drop me a line if you’re interested (and
if I haven’t already tapped you for something 😉


Karen Quinn Fung
e: karen(at)

Written by Stephen Rees

September 6, 2008 at 9:21 am

Posted in transit

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“Tighter transit security needed now”

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I do not know who Gordon Keast is. All it says on this opinion piece is that he is “a writer based in Surrey”. But he has an agenda all right. And that is to further intrude into your privacy, and make you feel less safe as you go about your daily business.

He wants Translink to introduce random passenger screening on SkyTrain and West Coast Express.

He states “it is virtually impossible to protect the transit system from dedicated suicide bombers or to eliminate all terrorist threats” – and Translink is already “improving” security – but even so he wants to do what no other urban system has introduced. Including the transit systems in London and Madrid which have already experienced fatal attacks.

Although such a system would not provide absolute protection against acts of terrorism, it could deter or redirect terrorists to other less vulnerable targets, according to a study on passenger screening prepared by the U.S.-based Mineta Transportation Institute. As a secondary benefit it might also reduce the number of weapons and drugs carried on our mass transit system.

And that is the agenda. Drugs and weapons are not the threat to passenger safety that a terrorist attack would be – but for people like Mr Keast they are “fair game”. Not that anyone carrying anything like that woudl consent to a random search – and thus would expose themselves to even closer scrutiny. So of course they would simply find other ways to get around. Though why they might be on West Coast Express is hard to fathom. The Hastings bus seems to me to be a more productive place if you really want to find drugs and weapons – but again random searches such as this are not allowed.

It is now well established that if we want to fly we have to be subjected to some gross intrusions into our privacy. And some of the activities of the TSA south of the border have been beyond belief. Forcing a woman to drink her own breast milk being merely one of the incidents that leaps to mind. Of course, the sort of people who are hired to conduct these screenings have low pay and minimal training and have absolutely no ability to exercise common sense or judgment. They are not allowed any discretion, and their supervisors are no more intelligent and not much better trained.

The threat of terrorism has been far more effective than the acts themselves, and we have all collectively been deprived of some of our human rights. The very freedoms we are supposed to be protecting.  Our leaders have persuaded us to voluntarily submit to some, but others such as no fly lists have been simply imposed. And are very obviously totally ineffective at their stated purpose, but really useful for harassing opponents of the regime.

And Mr Keast says that racial profiling would not be permitted. So expect your granny to be subject to some humiliating treatment just to make the numbers balance, and notice that if you wear clothes that may be mistaken for someone from the Middle East or have a really good suntan, its going to take you longer to get to school.

Al Quaeda has been very specific about why it mounts these attacks (hint: the Bush administration’s claim that they “hate freedom” is not among them). They currently are being presented targets much closer to their home base, and seem to be fairly well occupied in killing Canadians and aid workers in Afghanistan. The Canadian military role there is not as “peacekeepers” – something Mr Harper needs to be reminded is our preferred role on the world stage.

I lived in London through the worst of the IRA bombing campaign. We accepted that cctv would be deployed. As a result, Britain has more surveillance than nearly anywhere else and is no safer at all. And one odd consequence of the bomb attacks in the City of London (the financial district in the centre of the urban area) was that there was a sudden U turn in traffic policy there. And all of a sudden, stricter controls on through car traffic appeared. For those of us who had been working for years to reduce the impacts of unnecessary car traffic this was an unexpected and welcome bonus. But I see no advantage at all from becoming the first place to screen passengers on public transit. And anyway, why are not bus passengers to be “protected”? The bombers in London hit a bus too. And the footage of that was much more readily obtained than in the underground and was therefore, in terms of publicity, much more effective.

Mr Keast is simply another fan of Big Brother. And he must be told that we will not tolerate his interference in our lives. He simply fails to understand why the defence of human rights is important. And he plays into the hands of the terrorists, and manages to do their work for them. Becuase he is trying to make you feel unsafe and thus willing to give up your freedom and your dignity.

NO Mr Keast. Emphatically NO!’

UPDATE August 29

Because I trawl through my blogroll every so often I came up with this very useful rebuttal from the CEO of SkyTrain which apparently very nearly didn;t get published.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 14, 2008 at 8:31 am

Posted in transit

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