TTC riders don’t feel increased police presence, continue to ride with caution
A day after police announced they were increasing their presence on Toronto’s 80-officer transit, many drivers on the busiest TTC lines said they didn’t notice much of a difference.
Gem Geronimo, who commutes to her office a few times a week on the Spadina tram, said she hasn’t noticed any police on board so far. She is a little more nervous than usual in light of recent events, especially at night.
“Two weeks ago this guy pushed my friend when we were on the tram. He said some racist things.”
Some people are indifferent to recent events. Peter Lodge, who rides the tube every day, says he’s been more alert and looks over his shoulder more, but isn’t overly concerned. The only thing he noticed is that there weren’t that many people on board.
Damira Pan, a transit user, said she has experienced violence in transit in the past and having extra officers at subway stations makes her feel safer.
“It’s a good idea,” she said after stepping off the train at a downtown subway station. “I’m always on the lookout for officers if I’m worried about my safety.”
Pan said police presence is particularly needed during rush hours, when subways, buses and trams can get particularly crowded.
Seungbin Yoo, another commuter, said a visible police presence in transit could deter violence, including potential hate crimes.
He said he has felt unsafe using transportation since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic due to his Asian features and the anti-Asian sentiment that has emerged around the pandemic.
“I feel very unsafe using the trams, especially at night,” he said.
But not everyone welcomed the police reinforcements in transit.
Jaime Wilson, a transit driver, said more police in the system is not helping to address potential causes of violence, including homelessness and mental health issues.
“I don’t think that’s the solution,” she said. “The solution is housing, mental health resources, addiction resources, warm spaces.”
Wilson said despite the recent violence that has come under the spotlight, she thinks the city’s mass transit system is generally safe.
“I don’t think a police presence is necessary. They’re not going to be everywhere, it costs a lot of money and I don’t think people are happy with that solution,” she said.
Over the past year, TTC violence has increased by 20 percent. The past few weeks alone have contributed to that surge, from a man trying to push someone on the subway tracks in Bloor-Yonge to two TTC operators being “swarmed”.
The TTC announced on Friday that it will be adding more than 80 employees across the system every day to increase security. The announcement states that “high visibility” maintenance and transport managers will now be patrolling “hot spots” throughout the system during peak hours.
“It could be a patch solution,” Premier Doug Ford said in Brampton on Friday. “We need full-time police officers”
Health Secretary Sylvia Jones said the province had increased funding for mental health issues, adding it was “deeply disturbing to hear from young people who are so disenfranchised that they feel their only route is to attack strangers.” .
The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents Toronto transit workers, also said the underlying causes of the violence needed to be addressed.
“ATU Local 113 calls on all levels of government to work with the TTC to address root causes, including housing affordability and mental health as part of the broader issue of public transport safety,” it wrote in a statement Friday.
“Without addressing the core of the problem, we will not have a nonviolent shipping system.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory said increased policing at the TTC is part of solving security problems and the city will continue to invest in mental health and addiction treatment programs and anti-violence programs.
Police Chief Myron Demkiw said the increased police patrols at the TTC would be manned by off-duty officers who are paying overtime so that officers on duty can continue to respond to priority calls.
With files from The Canadian Press and Rob Ferguson.
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