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Banff resident calling for security cameras at pedestrian bridge following sexual assault

“This is definitely a public safety issue. Public safety for our youth here and those young girls is No. 1 … This area is dark, the approaches are shrouded in trees, the public safety issue exists for all ages and identities. It just doesn’t feel safe.”
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A couple looks over the edge of the Bow River pedestrian bridge in Banff⁠ on Friday (March 20). EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO⁠

BANFF – A sexual assault that took place near the pedestrian bridge has prompted a relative of one of the girls in the group to push the Town of Banff to increase public safety by installing security cameras and beefing up patrols in the area.

A group of teenage girls was walking near the pedestrian bridge on Halloween night on Oct. 31, 2021, when one was assaulted by a man in a Halloween costume, sparking an RCMP investigation that so far has not been able to turn up any conclusive leads.

Mark Marino, a long-time Banff resident who is a relative of one of the girls who was there that night, said he has brought forward several ideas to the Town of Banff for increased public safety, including security cameras, but doesn’t feel it has been the priority it should be.

“This is definitely a public safety issue. Public safety for our youth here and those young girls is No. 1,” he said.

“This area is dark, the approaches are shrouded in trees, and the public safety issue exists for all ages and identities. It just doesn’t feel safe.”

Marino recommends the first step is the installation of security cameras at both ends of the bridge, with accompanying signage and messaging.

He said he also wants to see high-level lighting added to the area.

“The trail lightning they’re putting in isn’t going to solve this issue. It’s low-level lighting and it’s not meant for security,” he said.

An increased presence and regular patrols by the Town of Banff’s bylaw services and RCMP of the area would also help with public safety, said Marino.

He said he wants funds dedicated to solving the problem at both the existing bridge and the new bridge under construction between Central Park and the recreation grounds.

“I am beyond extremely concerned about the sexual assault that took place at the south end of the pedestrian bridge just a few months ago,” he said in a letter to council.

“I hold council accountable to direct administration immediately to do everything possible to put an end to this public safety issue and to avoid further sexual assaults in the shadows at the pedestrian bridge.”

Banff town councillor Hugh Pettigrew plans to bring the issue up at an upcoming service review meeting of the governance and finance committee, perhaps as early as Jan. 19.

He said he plans to ask for council’s support in asking administration to come back with options for bridge safety, including security cameras that could aid in RCMP investigations.

“To me, security cameras should be included in that,” said Coun. Pettigrew, who also touched on the issue briefly during a meeting last week.

“We need to address public safety such as the incident that happened at Halloween. We just don’t want that to happen.”

Coun. Pettigrew said he’s not sure if there would be issues with FOIP (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy) around security cameras or who would be responsible for accessing the footage.

“But I still need to know what the options are – the pros and cons of the options,” he said.

After the incident that occurred on the south side of the bridge on Halloween night, the scared teenage girls ran to the Banff YWCA. The police were called immediately.

During the investigation into the sexual assault, police worked with the Town of Banff to examine traffic cameras in the vicinity to see if the various descriptions of the man dressed in a masked costume match up.

Given RCMP officers were patrolling the downtown area that night, they were also looking at their own police in-car cameras for a matching description.

"We have not developed any leads to identify the suspects at this point," said Staff Sergeant Mike Buxton-Carr, the detachment commander for Banff RCMP.

A 2020 study by the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services estimated that 1.48 million Albertans over the age of 18 – or 45 per cent – have experienced some type of sexual abuse in their lifetime. That equated to two in three females and one in three males.

The Banff YWCA’s Harmony Project brings together Bow Valley-based service providers to work towards ending sexualized violence in the community. Through a community-minded approach, the focus is to improve sexual assault community response and services.

The Harmony Project also offers training and supports to help businesses promote a culture of consent, reduce instances of workplace harassment, and to respond appropriately if a complaint is made.

The YWCA wants people of any gender – whether they’ve experienced sexual violence recently or in the past – to know of the services available. Those services include supportive counselling – not therapeutic counselling – and getting people connected to resources they might need.

The services, which are free, also extend to people who are supporting someone who has been through a sexual violence trauma. The Banff YWCA’s crisis phone line is 403-760-3200. For information about training and inquiries of a non-urgent nature, the number to call is 403-762-3520.

To find out more about the Harmony Project and sexual violence prevention and response, visit the website at https://ywcabanff.ca/programs-services/harmony-project.

The issue was discussed by Governance and Finance Committee on Jan. 19, but the outcome of that decision was not known at press time.