Toronto transit will have more police as random attacks reach ‘crisis level’ | Canada
Toronto police announced plans to deploy more officers to the city’s public transit system as a union of transit workers warned that a series of random attacks on passengers had brought the largest city in Canada at the “point of crisis”.
City police chief Myron Demkiw said Thursday that 80 officers would be immediately dispatched to subways and stations “to enhance the safety and security” of transit users. Earlier today, police arrested a person following reports that teenagers had shot a passenger with a BB gun.
In recent days, police have charged a woman with attempted murder after she allegedly approached another passenger on a tram and repeatedly stabbed her in the face and head. Separately, a 16-year-old boy was stabbed on a bus in the west of the city and suffered “serious” injuries. Earlier in the week, a group of teenagers “swarmed” and assaulted two transit workers and two other workers were chased by someone wielding a syringe.
The union which represents 35,000 transit workers in Canada has warned that the situation has reached “crisis level” in Toronto, amid a spike in assaults in other urban centres.
“The swarming, the unprovoked stabbings, [the] incident of a running person with a syringe, it is only a matter of time before these injuries become catastrophic and start taking lives. We must act now, not tomorrow,” John Di Nino, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, told reporters.
Over the summer, a woman was stabbed to death in a subway station in a seemingly random attack and another woman died after being set on fire in what police called a random hate-motivated attack .
Rick Leary, head of the transit commission, said while incidents were on the rise, the “high-profile” nature of the assaults had drawn public attention. The transit commission has previously said more vulnerable people have used its stations and vehicles for shelter in recent years as ridership dwindled during the coronavirus pandemic.
Toronto Mayor John Tory says the city faces a wider mental health crisis and an emergency federal summit is needed, though it’s unclear what role mental illness has played in the series of attacks.
Earlier this week, Tory said the mental health summit should have taken place “yesterday” and that leaders from all levels of government were to meet to determine how care and support would be funded, but admitted that there was no “magic answer” to the recent violence. More outreach and support workers will be dispatched to transit stations in the coming days.
In early January, Tory announced plans to hire 200 new police officers in the city’s budget and 50 special constables for the city’s transit system.
The wave of violence on the transit system comes with the city still on edge after a group of teenage girls allegedly stabbed a man to death in a seemingly random “swarm” attack. Police suspect the group was also involved in a series of assaults at downtown subway stations before the murder.