By Tuan Minh Nguyen
Following an increase in violent attacks in recent days within the city’s transit system, Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), Toronto Police Services announced they will be increasing their presence on transit with over 80 officers in a latest announcement on Jan. 26.
Thanh Thu often commutes to her office every day by subway line 2 Bloor–Danforth.
“I have seen some police at the subway station, but not every single one,” she said. “Just some stations which are the busiest.”
“I’ve read about it on the news but have never seen it in person,”said Ly Do, another commuter, on the way home by streetcar route 504 after shopping. She hasn’t travelled much by TTC since 2019 because she no longer feels safe. However, she still has to travel by streetcar or subway sometimes because she doesn’t have her own vehicle.
Duong Nguyen, a transit user, comes to work every week by streetcar route 510.
“I barely see any police, which makes me wonder why we’re pouring so much money into the police force every year, but we still have these attacks going on, and the police only step in when it’s too late,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen believes that increasing the police presence in TTC is only a temporary solution.
“It doesn’t actually solve the core issue at hand, which is inaccessible housing and inaccessible mental health support to help these individuals get the help that they need,” she said.
Do also think that the recent violence attacks on TTC probably stemmed from people with mental issues. She said that some people are intentional about it these days because they feel like they can get away with it.
“It’s not that effective unless we have cops on every car,” she said. “Hence, I don’t know if it’s scalable and will solve the root of the problem, but it’s a good first step to weed out as many cases as possible.”
However, Nguyen said the police presence on TTC could make some people uncomfortable. “Sometimes the presence of police doesn’t bring the same level or don’t bring the same feeling of safety and comfort to certain groups of people,” she said.
Thanh Thu had been the victim of a racist attack at Spadina station before. Since that attack, she’s only taken Uber to go home if it is late at night.
“I feel kind of unsafe when I am on the TTC, or when I was waiting for the TTC,” she said. “I think the solution the city having right now for the TTC is not a good one because people like me who travel by TTC every day still feel unsafe.”
Do thinks that there are many root causes leading to this problem. In order to completely solve it, she thinks that is necessary to have support from many authorities to solve each of those causes.
“More adolescents commit crimes because they probably hear about it on the internet and feel like they can get away with it, so we need to minimize exposure to the internet for this age group. Also, there are people with mental issues or homeless people who committed these crimes. For this group, it might be better to provide them with better housing and mental support, as well as giving them tools to live a more meaningful life, to feel the need to contribute to the society.” she shared.
“It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, but I think we can also start with allowing people to own more tools to protect themselves and educate them on how they can protect themselves in this type of situations, as well as more emergency exits or buttons to alert others of the situation.”
In recent days, attacks occurred on TTC including a woman who was stabbed on a streetcar, two uniformed Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) workers assaulted on their way to work, a TTC driver who was shot with a BB gun, and the latest is the case of one person robbed at knifepoint at Yorkdale subway station on Jan. 28.
At a press conference at police headquarters on Jan. 26, Toronto Police Service Chief Myron Demkiw stated that the goal is to have more than 80 police officers on duty at all of the city’s transportation hubs on a daily basis.
“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,” he said.
“The TTC must be safe for everyone, without exception to the people who use it and the people who provide the service each and every day,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said in the same press conference. “Any act of disrespect or violence that is directed towards another passenger or towards a TTC worker is completely unable.”
On the same day, TTC’s website also posted that they would increase more than 80 additional TTC staff focused on safety.
“This includes maintenance and transportation managers who will rotate through the subway network during peak service. Managers will be highly visible and will conduct system cleanliness as well as health and safety audits,” they stated.
Previously, on Jan. 9, The TTC board accepted a 10-cent fee hike on single cash and PRESTO trips, while maintaining rates for seniors, Fair Pass program participants, and PRESTO monthly and yearly passes. “The revenue from this tuition increase, together with the city’s planned $958.7 million subsidy to the TTC, will be used for assuring the system is dependable, safe, and accessible to all Torontonians,” they stated.