Amid Rash of Violence on Toronto Transit, Officials Try to Keep People Safe

Amid Rash of Violence on Toronto Transit, Officials Try to Keep People Safe

Updated: 2 months, 4 days, 15 hours, 33 minutes, 30 seconds ago

Amid Rash of Violence on Toronto Transit, Officials Try to Keep People Safe

Several violent incidents on Toronto transit over the past week signal an escalation of a phenomenon transit union leader John Di Nino says has been plaguing systems across the country.

Di Nino said at a press conference Wednesday that about 3,000 attacks just on transit operators⁠ happen annually across the country. That doesn’t include attacks on riders or attacks that go unreported.

Mayor John Tory says mental health is at the centre of this spate of violence on Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) vehicles. He has called for a national mental health summit that would bring together leaders on the municipal, provincial, and federal levels to discuss measures to address it.

Di Nino’s Amalgamated Transit Union also called for a meeting of leaders, in a National Transit Task Force, to “implement real changes that will keep transit workers and riders safe,” it said in a Tweet Thursday.

Tory and the TTC have outlined short-term measures to make passengers and operators more safe, as well as long-term measures.

Security, Mental Health

The TTC told The Epoch Times via email that immediate action includes increasing the number of transit special constables patrolling the system, working with Toronto police to increase their presence across the system, and installing more cameras and emergency alarms at stations and in vehicles. To form long-term measures, the TTC said, “TTC CEO Rick Leary is part of ongoing meetings with Mayor Tory, the Toronto Police Service and union representatives to discuss safety and security.”

Tory said it’s not possible to have security personnel on every vehicle, but the use of technology to monitor and report crimes, as well as addressing the root causes of crime, will help. “In the end, it’s going to also rely on the behaviour of people, on us making sure that those who are in need of support in the community get that support,” he said on Breakfast Television Thursday.

At a talk at Toronto police headquarters Jan. 5, Tory had said, “We will continue to invest lots and more in kids and families and neighbourhoods and the kinds of programs that will prevent crime and keep people away from crime and address the root causes of crime. But I’m also proud to stand here and say that as part of the overall mission … we will invest in the coming year in putting 200 more police officers on the streets.”

The TTC’s Leary has also said that having more mental health workers present in the transit system is a good idea. They might deescalate situations before they become violent.

“What’s happening? What changed? This is a real challenge for society in general,” Leary said on Breakfast Television Wednesday. “When you look around North America, many major transit systems are having very similar issues today. It’s not just unique to Toronto or to the TTC.”

At his Wednesday press conference, the union’s Di Nino cited two separate incidents in Edmonton last week in which transit operators were held at gun-point.

Toronto Incidents This Week

On Thursday morning, Toronto police reported they were investigating teens with BB guns shooting at passengers at York University subway station. They apprehended one person and reported injuries were “unknown.” This echoes a similar incident last week in which a TTC operator was shot with a BB gun. The suspects were male teens.

On Wednesday, a 16-year-old boy was stabbed on a TTC bus at Old Mill subway station and transported to hospital with serious injuries. Police were seeking a suspect who was last seen running on Bloor Street, estimated to be in his 20s. In an unrelated incident on the same day, a person chased two TTC operators with a syringe at Yonge and Dundas. The employees were able to get away and police arrested a suspect.

On Tuesday, a 23-year-old woman was stabbed in the head and face on a Spadina streetcar, allegedly by a 43-year-old woman named Leah Valdez who didn’t know her. She was transported to hospital with life-altering injuries, police reported. Valdez has been arrested and charged.

On Monday, a group of male teens allegedly swarmed TTC employees on a bus in Scarborough. Four 13-year-olds were charged with assault. It was one of many “swarming” attacks by teenagers that have happened in the past year across the country. Toronto Police Homicide Detective Sergeant Terry Browne explained “swarming” at a Dec. 21 press conference as a group of individuals “working as a singular entity in a swarming mob mentality.”

The TTC said in its statement, “The TTC moves hundreds of millions of customers every year without incident, but we cannot and do not take that for granted.” It is looking at making further security enhancements in its 2023 budget. “But we also know that there are bigger societal and systemic issues at play when it comes to the root causes of these incidents that require a multi-pronged response.”