There will be an increased presence of officers in the city’s transit system in response to a recent spike in violent crimes over the past few weeks.
At a press conference at police headquarters on January 26, Chief Myron Demkiw said the positions will be filled by off-duty officers in an overtime capacity.
“We are doing this so that on-duty frontline officers remain available to respond to priority calls,” he said. “Our deployment will allow us to respond to this situation while also ensuring that we do not compromise our efforts to continue the work that needs to be done to improve our current response times to emergency calls.”
Demkiw said the aim is to have more than 80 police officers in place throughout the city’s transit locations on a daily basis.
“These deployments will focus on reducing victimization, preventing crimes of opportunity and enhancing public safety,” he said. “Given this, our deployments will be dynamic and may change from day-to-day. However, our officers will be on, in, and around the transit system, across the city, throughout the day and late into the evening each and every day.”
The Chief said officers from across the city will participate in the enhancement and transit users will immediately notice an increased presence of Toronto Police officers in the subways, on streetcars and buses.
Demkiw spoke directly to the officers that have been asked to give more of their free time to help keep the city safe.
“Each of you are constantly asked to do more, and what makes you so special is that each time we call on you, you rise to the moment,” he noted. “Thank you for what you do. We appreciate your dedication and commitment to public service and public safety.
“I know that our presence on the subways, street cars and buses of this city helps to make the operators and users of the transit system feel safer and more comfortable. I have heard this directly from riders and TTC employees during my travels on the transit system, while in uniform, as recently as Monday afternoon.”
The Chief said the deployment will be driven by TPS and TTC intelligence and data.
“In this circumstance, we are working with our TTC partners to understand where we can be most effective and where we can make the greatest difference,” he said. “That includes just not geographically, but time of day, place, etc.”
Deputy Chief Lauren Pogue said transit security is a collaborative partnership and TPS work with TTC Special Constables, Streets to Homes Outreach workers and the Toronto Community Crisis Service to make the system safer.
“We will be nimble and adjust deployments to ensure we are addressing the safety concerns of Torontonians,” she said. “The plan outlined by the Chief will be in place for the foreseeable future and can be scaled up or down as needed to ensure the delivery of core police services by our frontline in addition to implementing this high visibility, high impact plan to enhance public safety for everyone who uses the TTC as well as the dedicated transit workers.”
Having more police in the transit system, said Mayor John Tory, is an important step.
“The bottom line for all us is the TTC must be safe for everyone without exception,” the former Toronto Police Services Board Chair said. “Today represents another step forward in trying to make sure that passengers and employees are safe. Any act of disrespect or violence directed to another passenger or a TTC worker is completely unacceptable. I know many people who use the TTC are anxious and even scared. They must know we are doing everything we can that can be helpful to address their concerns.”
TTC Chief Executive Officer Rick Leary said the recent incidents within the transit network are incredibly worrisome.
“Just this morning, we saw another incident, this time at York University Station, involving a replica gun, which is simply unacceptable,” he said. “The safety of our customers and our employees is paramount to everything we do at the TTC. Everyone should feel safe and be safe while taking the TTC.”
Leary said the TTC is hiring Special Constables and adding Streets to Homes workers to help.
“We are also adding and improving our camera system at all of our stations and in our vehicles,” he said, “We have increased the presence of Station Supervisors, our Chief Mobile Supervisors as well as Managers throughout the system and we have deployed more uniformed employees to help our customers.”
TTC Chair Jon Burnside said everyone deserves to feel safe while using the transit system.
“The recent increase in violence on the TTC is extremely upsetting,” he said. “As a former police officer, an active community member and a transit user, it cannot continue. Safe and reliable transit is vitally important to the success of our vibrant city.”