The Toronto police will be rolling out an increased presence across the TTC following a rash of violent, and sometimes random, incidents on the city’s transit system.
Police Chief Myron Demkiw announced the boost alongside Mayor John Tory, as well as TTC CEO Rick Leary, at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
“In recent weeks, we have been actively increasing our high-visibility patrols within the transit system. However, it is clear that more can be done to enhance the safety and security of transit users,” Demkiw said.
The move will see 80 police officers deployed on the TTC network daily, which Demkiw says will focus on reducing victimization, preventing crimes of opportunity, and enhancing public safety.
Thursday’s news comes at the tail end of a week filled with violence on TTC property, including a woman who was stabbed by a stranger on a streetcar and left with life-altering injuries, two transit workers who were chased through a subway station by a suspect armed with a syringe, and a 16-year-old boy who was seriously injured after he was slashed on a bus.
Demkiw said the deployment will rely on callback shifts, which lean on off-duty officers for coverage in an overtime capacity.
The chief did not put a price tag on the measure, but said the cost would be monitored on an ongoing basis.
On Wednesday, the president of the union representing some 12,000 transit workers in Toronto said violent incidents against workers and passengers on the TTC, as well as across the country, had reached “crisis levels” and called for the establishment of a national transit safety task force.
“The increase in violence is becoming more and more problematic…It’s only a matter of time, unfortunately, before these injuries become catastrophic and start to take lives. We need to act now, not tomorrow, now,” John Di Nino, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Canada, said in an interview.
Tory said he supports Di Nino’s request while underscoring that deploying more police to the TTC at a time of “some anxiety” is the right thing to do.
“It will be complemented by measures that I announced earlier this month as part of the city's budget which I trust will be approved, including an increase of 50 TTC special constables and a significant increase in the number of housing outreach workers on the TTC,” Tory said.
Earlier this month, the TTC Board approved a proposed $2.38 billion TTC budget that includes millions of dollars to hire new special constables to improve safety for riders and transit employees alike. However, some advocates have said the budget, which also contains a 10 cent fare hike and nine per cent service decrease compared to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels to address to $366 million budget shortfall, raises safety concerns.
For Leary’s part, he admitted that the TTC does not know what’s behind the recent increase in violence on the network, but that the root causes are “complex” and require a coordinated approach and response to address.
“We know the TTC really is a microcosm of what's happening across the city right now. And we recognize that there is a bigger society and systemic issue at play here,” Leary said. “The issue requires longer-term solutions and the TTC will be at the table with these experts [to address] crime prevention. mental health and addiction and homelessness.”