METRO/SEAN MCKIBBON OC Transpo passengers wait to board a bus on Slater Street.

There have been 85 sexual assaults on Ottawa’s transit system reported to police since 2008, with a high of 22 reported last year.

And according to year-to-date reports provided by the Ottawa Police Service, 2013 is on pace for similar numbers. There have been 11 between Jan. 1 and June 3.

Staff Sgt. Angela McDade, of the Ottawa police’s sexual assault and child abuse section, said that the majority of these incidents took place on OC Transpo buses, rather than at transit stations.

The exact location — such as the block an attack took place on or the bus route number — is difficult to pin down, McDade said. The incidents could be reported after the fact, at a hospital or at the person’s residence.

James Babe, OC Transpo’s manager of transit safety and enforcement services, said the transit service is currently working on a “comprehensive safety plan” to address concerns about assaults on transit.

“The number 85 surprised me,” Babe said, noting only 55 had been reported directly to OC Transpo over the same period.

“One is too many, so any number is too many as far as I’m concerned.”

The issue of sexual assaults on OC Transpo buses came to the fore earlier this year, largely due to efforts of the Hollaback Ottawa advocacy group. Hollaback’s Julie Lalonde said she suspects the number of incidents reported to Ottawa police is low.

“(The number) doesn’t surprise me,” Lalonde said. “I think the number is not reflective of the reality, but I think its in line with what we know —  which is that people do report, but not everyone does.”

OC Transpo representatives and transportation committee chair Coun. Diane Deans are meeting with women’s groups Thursday morning to discuss the issue.

Number of sexual assaults on the OC Transpo system by year:

2008: 10
2009: 9
2010: 17
2011: 16
2012: 22
2013 (Jan.1 – June 3): 11

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