A dedicated police unit that has been focusing on traffic enforcement in the parts of the city where speeding and dangerous driving are most common has now been made a permanent fixture of the Toronto Police Service.

The unit was first formed in January at the request of former police chief Mark Saunders and included two teams of four working overtime to cover off morning and evening shifts on weekdays at a cost of about $1 million.

In August, Interim Police Chief James Ramer announced that the unit would eventually be made permanent and on Thursday he held a press conference to detail a major expansion that will double the number of officers assigned to it. 

He said that the team will now be made up of 16 “experienced traffic officers” and two sergeants who will “focus their attention on locations and times where data and intelligence shows the greatest opportunity for safety improvement.”

In some cases, the officers will use marked police vehicles but Ramer said that they will also have access to unmarked vehicles so they can “use a variety of operational tactics to detect unsafe driving.”

“My message today is that motorists who choose to drive in an unsafe manner will be much more likely to get tickets so be aware,” he said. “While we will always continue to educate where possible enforcement is going to be a priority.”

The temporary traffic enforcement unit launched in January and has already issued more than 29,000 tickets.

Speaking with reporters at Thursday’s news conference, Mayor John Tory said that the hope is that by focusing on targeted enforcement the unit will ultimately be able to “change driver behaviour” in neighbourhoods with higher rates of collisions and “save lives.”

He said that the city will also play a role by sharing the data it collects with police, including information from the 50 speed cameras now in operation across the city.

“Experience shows that speed enforcement is most effective when it is applied to targeted locations at targeted times and the data that we are going to provide will show where the best places are for them to apply their efforts as they see fit.”

The new permanent traffic enforcement unit replaces a similar unit that was disbanded in 2013.