Toronto police says it will be modifying its approach to deploying officers along the city’s transit system.
The force said beginning in January, it temporarily increased its patrols in the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) “in response to concerns of customers and transit employees who said they were feeling unsafe in the wake of some high-profile incidents.”
“TPS, in collaboration with the TTC, announced a temporary, scalable deployment of additional officers, staffed by callback shifts. The objective was to support the TTC in partnership with the City of Toronto and its agencies, including SafeTO,” police said in a news release.
Acting deputy chief of community safety command, Lauren Pogue, told Global News police would remain in the transit system.
“We are not pulling out of the subway system but what is changing is we are moving from a model that was utilizing call back officers on overtime to an on-duty model,” Pogue said.
She said operations would now be “very fluid” depending on what is reported to police.
Asked if more on-duty officers would be deployed across the TTC to compensate for the end of additional paid duty police, Pogue said she would not comment on operations.
The cost of paid duty — which Toronto councillors were told could be around $1.7 million per month — was one reason for scaling back the police response, Pogue said.
According to the police media release, officers provided more than 220 referrals for people needing help accessing assistance including shelter, food or mental health services.
The force said officers also made more than 314 arrests, including an arrest and firearm seizure at Toronto’s Pioneer Village Subway Station.
Another person was arrested after an unprovoked attack on a Spadina streetcar, police said.
According to police, officers will now return to “primarily deploying on-duty officers in the transit system and incorporating those proactive patrols within regular operational work.”
The force said it will “continue to assess public safety needs on an ongoing basis,” adding that additional support with police callback shifts will resume if deemed necessary.
“Deployment of police officers remains intelligence-led and the number of officers in the system will vary based on time of day, occurrences and issues identified by the TTC and TPS divisions,” police said. “Additionally, TPS continues to respond to all calls for service and provide emergency response.”
Toronto police Chief Myrom Demkiw said officers will be “visible in the transit system and officers will continue to patrol the TTC and respond to emergencies and calls for service.”
He said the force will remain “flexible” to respond to concerns from the public and will “continuously assess the public safety needs, along with TTC and the City of Toronto.”
Police said the TTC has also added resources to the system over the past month including adding 50 temporary security guards, adding community safety ambassadors and Street to Homes outreach workers.
“Police will continue to be there, we’ll continue to be there,” a TTC spokesperson told Global News. “We’ll have additional resources, it’s all part of that balanced approach.”
TTC CEO Rick Leary said the partnership with police is “essential to addressing the complex safety and security challenges the TTC has been facing recently.”
Leary said the TTC has also been deploying more staff supervisors, additional special constables, contracted street outreach workers and specially trained security guards “as part of this coordinated, strategic approach to safety and security.”
Police said the force will collaborate with the TTC and the city to “continue to assess the situation while providing support when needed and in response to calls as part of a larger overall approach to addressing safety issues on the TTC.”
— with files from Global News’ Isaac Callan
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