Some Torontonians are calling out the Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) new web form, saying one of the safety concerns that can be reported is “cruel and unacceptable” as it appears to target unhoused individuals in the city.
Earlier this week, the TTC announced it will be expanding its reporting options for transit riders if they see a safety or security concern.
On top of now being able to text TTC Transit Control, transit users can also report incidents online through the SafeTTC web form – and one safety concern that can be reported has drawn criticism online.
“The new SafeTTC web form explicitly allows you to discretely report #homeless people as a ‘safety concern’ on public transit. How is this appropriate and not explicit targeting, @TTChelps?” one Twitter user wrote.
Others echoed the sentiment, calling on the transit agency to immediately remove the category, while another questioned, “Why and what is suppose to be reported? And do all unhoused persons look unhoused ??”
Operators with TTC’s Customer Service were quick to respond to the concerns on Twitter, saying the matter was being reviewed and that they are working to remove it from the form.
Stuart Green, spokesperson for the TTC, confirmed to CTV News Toronto in a statement as a result of the “recently expressed confusion about this, we are in the process of clarifying the reporting language on the app.”
Green notes the language has been around since it was launched in 2017, and says the intended use of the ‘homeless’ category is to provide transit users “the opportunity to advise the TTC of someone experiencing homelessness and in distress, which in turn would allow us to compassionately address each situation.
“The TTC will never ask those using the system for shelter to leave unless there are immediate health or safety concerns for that individual or others,” Green said.
SAFETY CONCERNS ON TTC
Earlier this year, the TTC was at the pinnacle of a string of violent crimes, which prompted increased police presence and enforcement, leaving some transit riders questioning their personal safety.
In January, the TTC hired additional security guards and special constables to address these safety concerns, but also noted there are societal issues to consider.
“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 year,” TTC CEO Rick Leary previously said at a news conference.
“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,” he said.
“If this is about mental health, why are we putting money into policing and not actual mental health supports?” outreach worker Lorraine Lam asked at a TTCRiders event in February. “Whose safety are we talking about here? And which public gets to take up space?”
“I think we need to actually stop scapegoating poor and unhoused people for causes of violence on transit,” she said, noting unhoused populations are more likely to be victims of violent crime than commit it.
Instead of enforcement, Lam urged the city to invest in accessible warming and shelter spaces, overdose responses, and de-escalation tactics, among other community support.
On Monday, Toronto police announced they have ended their extra patrols of the transit system and will instead deploy officers when responding to emergencies and calls for service.
With files from CTV News Toronto’s Abby O’Brien and CP24’s Josh Freeman