Toronto police deploying dozens of officers to patrol city’s transit system after surge in violence

After a recent surge of violent incidents on the TTC, police are increasing the “daily presence” of officers within the city’s transit system effective Thursday, Police Chief Myron Demkiw said.

Upwards of 80 police officers will be in place throughout the transit system every day, he said, in an effort to enhance public safety and prevent “crimes of opportunity,” he said.

“Our officers will be on, in and around our transit system across the city.”

Demkiw appeared at a news conference Thursday alongside Mayor John Tory and TTC CEO Rick Leary, among others, to respond to an increase in attacks on streetcars, buses and on the subway. 

Demkiw said the officers who will be patrolling the TTC will be doing so on an overtime capacity, as to not compromise efforts to improve response times for police calls across the city.

It’s unclear how much this plan will cost.

Leary said the TTC will also be adding more special constables and uniform employees to the system, as well as adding to and improving security camera systems.

“These individuals are there to help individuals,” Leary said.

A 16-year-old boy who was seriously injured in a stabbing on a TTC bus Wednesday marked the fourth case of violence in five days on the city’s transit system. 

In those five days, police reported separate incidents involving harassment and assault against TTC employees, and a resident stabbed several times while on a streetcar.

Earlier in the day, a person was arrested after allegedly chasing two TTC workers with a syringe.

In response to the violence, Tory called for a summit that would see mayors, ministers, premiers and the prime minister discuss how better to support people living with mental health and addictions challenges.

Tory said Thursday he understands some passengers are anxious and scared, and officials are doing what they can to make sure transit riders and employees alike are safe.

“The TTC must be safe for everyone, without exception,” he said.

The mayor also said the city needs funding help from other levels of government — both for additional police officers and special constables, and for investments in social services and mental health.

Toronto police say that in light of the recent incidents, officers have been encouraged to engage with passengers and TTC operators when they are on duty and provide a visible policing presence on transit.

Cities outside Toronto are also witnessing an increase of violence on their transit networks. The Amalgamated Transit Union Canada, representing 35,000 transit workers, called for a national task force to tackle violence against workers and riders on public transit systems across the country.

ATU Local 113, the union local that represents 12,000 transit workers across Toronto, sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Thursday, asking for federal assistance and resources be allocated to the issues of mental health and homelessness.

“We are at a breaking point. We’re in a situation where we have members saying they are in fear,” said Marvin Alfred, Local 113 president.

“We have Torontonians saying they are looking at options other than the TTC, which increases costs and emissions, versus taking public transit because they are too scared.”

The TTC’s latest CEO report from earlier this month shows reports of violence against customers spiked in early 2020 and has ebbed and flowed since then — but has not dropped back down to pre-pandemic levels.

The report also shows offences against employees have risen since 2017, peaking in the spring of last year.

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