Toronto police say they will end their extra patrols of TTC properties starting today.
The addition of 80 police officers across the system began in January in response to a rash of violent incidents on the transit system, including fatal attacks, stabbings and people being shoved onto tracks.
During budget deliberations earlier this year, city staff warned that the police force did not have enough money to keep paying the overtime costs for the additional patrols past winter.
The move was costing approximately $1.5 million per month.
“TPS will now return to primarily deploying on-duty officers in the transit system and incorporating those proactive patrols within regular operational work,” Toronto Police said in a news release Monday.
The statement said TPS will continue to work with the city and the TTC “to assess public safety needs on an ongoing basis.
“Additional support with police callback shifts will resume if deemed necessary,” the statement said.
The force noted that while the additional patrols were in place, officers “engaged with the TTC ridership daily and supported the city and TTC by directly providing more than 220 referrals to individuals needing help in accessing social assistance supports including shelter, food, and mental health services.”
They also made more than 314 arrests, including an arrest and firearm seizure at Pioneer Village subway station, the arrest of one person in connection with an unprovoked attack on the Spadina streetcar, and two arrests in incidents where people were assaulted with weapons.
Going forward, Toronto Police said, deployment of police officers will remain “intelligence-led.”
“Toronto Police will be visible in the transit system and officers will continue to patrol the TTC and respond to emergencies and calls for service,” Chief Myron Demkiw said in a statement. “Police officers will patrol during the periods that typically generate the most calls for service, where there is a high volume of ridership with times and locations fluctuating based on our intelligence, including the number of calls for police service and information provided by the TTC.”
He said the force “will remain flexible to respond to the concerns of the public and will continuously assess the public safety needs, along with TTC and the City of Toronto.”
Speaking with CP24, Acting Deputy Chief Lauren Pogue said the force is still analyzing the data from the past few months to see what the impact was of having additional officers on the system.
“We had a number of people, as our officers were out on a daily basis, commenting that they certainly appreciated us being there,” Pogue said. “We are working with the TTC to look at the data and analytics to certainly determine you know what the impact was.”
Pogue said she couldn’t speak to how many officers the TTC will see on its system daily going forward.
TTC CEO Rick Leary thanked the force in his own statement “for their continued support” and called their partnership “essential to addressing the complex safety and security challenges the TTC has been facing recently.”
“In addition to the TPS resources, the TTC has been deploying more staff supervisors, additional special constables, contracted street outreach workers and specially trained security guards into our system over the past few weeks as part of this coordinated, strategic approach to safety and security,” Leary said.
The statement noted that the TTC recently added 50 temporary security guards to the system, along with “Community Safety Ambassadors” and Street to Homes (S2H) outreach workers in partnership with the city.
Speaking with CP24, TTC Spokesperson Stuart Green said “TPS is very much committed to staying on the TTC and being a physical presence on public transit.”
He said that having on-duty TPS officers on the system is “as far as we're concerned, better news than relying on that overtime situation.”
However he wasn’t able to provide numbers as to how many officers would be on the system daily and it's not clear whether or not there will be any more officers on the TTC daily than there were prior to January.
Violence on the TTC has been a growing problem over the past few months, with riders and staff reporting feeling unsafe because of the incidents.
In a statement, the union representing TTC workers said violence on the TTC “can’t be solved by enforcement alone” and the group called for better investments in housing and mental health.
“Today’s announcement from the Toronto Police Service further reinforces our continued message: We can’t rely on enforcement as the only form of a solution, because that option won’t always be available,” ATU Local 113 said.
“Rather, we need to implement a comprehensive safety and security plan that provides real housing solutions and a better way to respond to people in crisis.”
- Map by Jesse Tahirali