Tuesday, April 16, 2024
HomeCANADAAnthony Furey Vows To Hire 500 Police Officers, Boost Officer Visibility On...

Anthony Furey Vows To Hire 500 Police Officers, Boost Officer Visibility On Streets

The City we love can have a safe transit system again, but only if we create a visible police presence, give police and TTC Special Constables the tools they need and add mental health worker expertise, Mayoral Candidate Anthony Furey declared today.

“Back in January, the City and the TTC put overtime uniformed police on our transit system in response to a rash of random violence,” Furey said. “Then, in March, they pulled them off again, in favour of ‘regular patrols’[1] – as if nothing had changed.

“Yet the violence persists. This makes no sense when it comes to community and transit safety all across our City.”

Furey’s plan would re-establish a visible police presence on the TTC, while adding mental health workers to backstop enforcement measures. His plan for restoring transit safety and rider confidence also includes:

  • authorizing and training TTC Special Constables to carry tasers instead of night sticks, to deal with threatening people – not injure them
  • upgrading police radios to ensure they work in all parts of our transit system (they often don’t)
  • increasing cooperation between Toronto Police Services and TTC Special 
    Constables so that TTC management no longer directs law enforcement
  • recruiting more mental-health workers to augment police expertise when needed
  • increase “beat cop” patrol presence on TTC premises
  • advocate for province to allow Special Constables to use vehicle emergency lights (currently not allowed)
  • sending security and / or mental-health workers to the scene of non-violent crimes

“Advocates have long argued that police aren’t always equipped to handle incidents involving people in crisis, and I agree,” Furey said. “But we can’t send in mental health specialists undefended in cases involving the risk of violence.

“So let’s combine those skills in units to patrol the TTC with the tools they need, and handle these incidents together. Only then can we ensure that Toronto’s transit system becomes safe once again for everyone across our City.”

Furey: We Can Fix This!

The Issue: Violence on the TTC and a Return to Safety

Here’s what’s wrong with the way things are:

According to TTC CEO Rick Leary, the number of violent incidents on the system jumped by 46 per cent in 2022 to 1,068, compared with 734 cases the previous year.[2] Yet after having boosted the police presence on the TTC in January, these officers were pulled back off in March. That makes no sense, seeing as these ugly incidents have continued unabated.

Critics say the job should instead be handled by social workers trained to handle people in distress from mental, drug or other issues. That’s part of the answer. But it also makes no sense to put these individuals in harm’s way without a police backup if these situations become violent, as they so often do.

And even then, the City’s approach so far has arguably put the needs of potentially violent, disturbed people ahead of ordinary transit riders – and often their children – who are just trying to go about their daily lives. That’s just plain wrong.

Here’s what I’m going to do to fix it:

When it comes to expertise in handling these situations, it’s not an either/or choice between police and mental health experts. Why not combine both in a dedicated unit to ensure safety on the TTC?

My ideas for transit safety will address this mounting crisis with an integrated package of measures (see previous). But the most important one is to re-establish a well-equipped and visible security presence on the system, in partnership with mental health experts who can advise on the best way to de-escalate these incidents when they happen, and better resources, tools and legal authority for TTC Special Constables.

Here’s what the benefits will be for all the people of Toronto:

Restored confidence in the TTC. Higher ridership after a sharp drop during the pandemic. More mobility for the citizens of our City. Support for our struggling tourism industry. Trained help and equipment for people in crisis. But above all, making our TTC The Better Way once again.

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