‘Police do not prevent violence’: Attacks continue on TTC despite presence of cops, security

There have been four violent attacks on the TTC despite police officers boosting their presence last week. As Tina Yazdani reports, community advocates are not surprised and say real solutions are needed to address safety issues.

By Tina Yazdani and Lucas Casaletto

There may be more police officers patrolling the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), but that doesn’t seem to have curbed the trend of violence.

Since Friday, there have been four attacks, including two robberies and two assaults, in line with the ongoing brutality affecting the city’s transit system before it was announced the city would implement additional safety measures to keep commuters and employees safe.

Some advocates say this isn’t unexpected.

“It’s really unfortunate to hear about these latest incidents, but sadly, it’s not surprising because we know the police do not prevent violence,” said Shelagh Pizey-Allen, Executive Director of TTCriders, a public transit advocacy.

This weekend, Toronto police said it received reports a man allegedly assaulted three people on a downtown streetcar minutes east of city hall. That incident occurred less than a day after the TTC, accompanied by Mayor John Tory, confirmed approximately 80 additional employees would be present and move throughout the system each day in the wake of the recent wave of violence.

“No one should be under the illusion that police are going to be a solution to this,” said Matti Siemiatycki, Director of the Infrastructure Institute at the University of Toronto (U of T).

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On Friday, the same day police boosted their presence across the transit network, a group of youths allegedly robbed and assaulted a man at Pape Subway Station before another reported assault minutes later on a TTC bus.

This comes after a week of daily stabbings, assaults and violent robberies affecting the network but follows months of escalating safety concerns reported by TTC riders.

“It’s irresponsible to see a knee-jerk reaction to the safety concerns we’ve been hearing about when safety has been identified for so long, and experts do have the solutions,” Pizey-Allen said, while Siemiatycki added that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic appear to have “shook loose” many issues in the community. 

“There has been an uptick in violence and incivility across our cities, and the TTC is a microcosm of society more broadly,” he said.

Tory, TTC CEO Rick Leary and city officials acknowledged on Monday they were doing more to ensure safety is prioritized on the TTC with added resources. These include access to Community Safety Ambassadors, over 50 security guards deployed across the system, and de-escalation training to support TTC staff.


Tory said the security guards would be temporarily added across the transit network and that Community Safety Ambassadors would work directly with people experiencing homelessness.

“The TTC must be safe for everyone. At my urging, city officials have been working with the TTC to provide any required support to help keep our transit system safe,” Tory said.

“These immediate actions will help keep TTC employees and transit riders safe, and the long-term work to keep our system and the entire city safe is continuing.”

Transit advocates like Pizey-Allen blame the lack of available city shelter space as a crucial element for people experiencing homelessness congregating on TTC busses, streetcars and subways.

“[These] people are taking shelter on the TTC because there’s nowhere else safe and warm for them to go, and they are vulnerable to violence… [they’re] not the cause of violence,” she said.

The city is investing $79 million this year in shelter support and housing and increasing funding for the new Community Crisis Response Program by just over $6 million.

A new city report confirmed that the program’s first six months saw positive outcomes, with crisis teams successfully diverting 78 per cent of calls received from 9-1-1 with no police involvement. Still, many others admit there aren’t enough initiatives to address the ongoing safety concerns.

“If we’re going to put more police officers on the TTC, then we’re pushing the problem somewhere else,” said NDP University-Rosedale MPP Jessica Bell.

“So, a police officer will move an aggressive person from the TTC onto the street? Then what? Does it become a problem for pedestrians?”

Bell said the provincial government has the funding to improve the TTC, invest in mental health, and address the affordable housing crisis.

“They have a responsibility to.”

Earlier this month, Tory announced a proposed $48.3 million increase to Toronto’s police budget, which would, in part, add about 200 officers and programming to address youth violence.

With files from The Canadian Press and CityNews staff

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