'A Band-Aid solution': Ford responds to increased police presence on the TTC following surge in violence
As of Friday, there are 80 Toronto police officers scattered across TTC property after a week filled with violence across the network, which Ontario Premier Doug Ford said “is great,” but not enough of a solution to resolve the issue that has left some customers anxious to ride the transit.
“It’s a band-aid solution,” Ford said at an unrelated news conference on Friday. “It’s not a full team there. That’s what we need.”
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The city’s top brass announced the deployment on Thursday following a number of violent incidents that have occurred on the network, which have included stabbings, assaults, and robberies.
Police Chief Myron Demkiw made the announcement alongside Mayor John Tory, as well as TTC CEO Rick Leary, and said the 80 officers – who will work overtime to cover the shifts – will be focused on reducing victimization, preventing crimes of opportunity, and enhancing public safety.
"Officers from across the city are participating in this enhancement and those who ride the transit will immediately notice an increased presence of Toronto police officers in the subways, on the streetcars and buses,” Demkiw said.
It’s unclear how much the enhanced deployment will cost the city, or when it will end, but Demkiw said those are factors under consideration.
Some TTC customers riding the transit Friday morning welcomed the increased police presence.
“It’s good to have police officers on the subway. I’ve been hearing a lot lately about things happening. So yeah, I definitely feel better,” said one rider.
“I think that it’s interesting. I feel like we need a lot more security, but it’s also a little bit scary with everything that’s going on,” said another. “I feel like the incidents have been piling up and it’s now time to actually do something. So hearing that [more police are on the TTC] is nice.”
Ford went on to say that he realizes policing is just one part of the solution to a multi-layered problem, and pointed to his government’s $3.8-billion investment in mental health services over 10 years through its Roadmap to Wellness initiative, as another element of provincial support for the city.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks as he holds a press conference regarding the Toronto Metropolitan University's new School of Medicine in Brampton., Ont., on Friday, January 27, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
The premier bookended his comments on the issue by again calling for bail reform.
“We can't have police officers in the GTA, or anywhere in Ontario, arrest really, really bad people and criminals shooting up our streets and then they get out the next day on bail,” Ford said.
Ford, who has called for changes to the country’s bail system a number of times throughout his tenure, most recently raised the issue following the death of Const. Greg Pierzchala. It was revealed through court documents that one of the two people facing a first-degree murder charge in the OPP officer’s death was out on bail.
“These criminals doing that. That's unacceptable. We'll do everything we can to make those changes to bail reform,” Ford said.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said Thursday's announcement of more police in the system is just one step toward addressing safety concerns on public transit that came out of discussions between the city, the TTC, its union representatives, and police.
"I know many people who use the TTC -- the passengers are anxious and even scared," said Tory. "They must know that we are doing everything we can."
Tory also addressed criticism he's received over increasing the city's police budget and said the investments "are still a necessary part of the safety answers for today and tomorrow."
With files from The Canadian Press
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