Researcher: What to do about transit violence in Canada

Citing the recent stabbing of a 16-year-old boy at a Toronto train station, Canada is taking steps to improve its transportation system to address problems ranging from lack of mental health support to declining public trust. Researchers say they need standardized data on violence. of random attacks on commuters.

The general public should be able to easily access such information, says Professor Murtaza Haider, research director of the Urban Analytics Institute at Toronto Metropolitan University.

Haider collected data on all violent incidents from Toronto police between January 2014 and June 2022, and his most recent analysis found 7,306 reported incidents in the city’s transit system during that time. said to have shown that

He noted a spike in violent crime, primarily at stations run by the Toronto Transportation Commission.

In February 2021, nearly a dozen violent incidents were reported against one million riders, compared to two incidents against the same number of riders in 2019.

“My concern is that transit agencies are not reporting such data on a regular basis,” he said, extending that concern to public transit agencies across the country.

The data is one way transit agencies and experts are trying to find solutions to violence that has reached “crisis levels,” the head of the Canadian Transport Federation commented in January.

The TTC recently transferred that data to the city of Toronto, a spokesperson said.

Some transit agencies report crime data in ways the public can’t understand, so it needs to be made available in a standardized format, Haider said, noting that violent crime has occurred in the Edmonton transit system as well. I mentioned that there is

In January, the head of the Amalgamated Transit Union Canada said increased funding for mental health, improved housing assistance and a greater police presence would help prevent violence against the nation’s transit system. asked a national task force to consider whether John Di Nino said all levels of transportation and government should be included.

For example, Edmonton police have reported 35 incidents of transit violence and 9 weapons-related reports since early 2023.

“In our case, in Toronto[it’s a murder]this is very shocking,” Haider said of the teen’s death at the TTC last weekend. indicted.

“When this trust in the transportation system is eroded, it’s a question of what’s going on, how quickly the transportation system is responding to such catastrophic events, and what they’re doing to[prevent]them. We will remain ignorant as to what they did,” Haider said.

He questioned the TTC’s strategy of putting inspectors on trams to check for toll evaders when he determined that there was a growing need for more police and security personnel.

Inspectors were reassigned to customer service part of the pandemic and resumed checking tram fares a year ago, according to the TTC.

Josipa Petrunic is president of the non-profit Canadian Urban Transportation Research and Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC). CUTRIC aims to reduce transport emissions and violence against women who use these systems. She said standardized data on incidents in transit could help predict where attacks are likely to occur.

“Once you start looking at what’s happening in our cities, where it’s happening, time-of-day trendlines and clusters, you can start to identify some correlations. And all that tech Mapping can be turned into real-time predictions that help police officers, safety officers, and social workers know where an attack might occur,” says Petrnik.

Predictions can come from data from Twitter and other social media feeds used by transit agencies, as well as information from text messaging services and artificial intelligence provided to passengers to report safety issues, she said. says.

“Towards the pandemic, many of our transportation systems already had safety issues, so now we are layering all these social ills on top of systems that were underinvested. increase.”

Consortium members include 30 colleges and universities, including the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia, as well as transit agencies across the country, including the TTC in Toronto and others in Halifax, Metro Vancouver and Brampton.

Petrnik said it’s time to stop thinking that incidents of violence in transit are completely inevitable and start taking the health and wellbeing of society more seriously.

TransLink, the transit agency for Metro Vancouver’s 22 jurisdictions, said its safety measures included silent alarms and intercoms on trains and emergency phones on platforms. A text message system connects passengers with the country’s only dedicated service, the Transit Police.

Amanda Steed, speaking on behalf of the Quorum Traffic Police Agency, said 24 mental health-trained “safety officers” will be deployed next year as part of a new program to further enhance public safety on trains and stations. He said he would be hired by Half of the workforce will be on the job by this fall.

“They will be another uniform that passengers should expect to see in the system,” Steed said.

TTC said it also offers a text message service and a SafeTTC app for passengers to report problems to the control center.

However, TTC subway commuters do not have consistent cell phone, internet, or 911 service across the system. According to the agency, the best way to send alerts in an emergency is to activate the yellow strips on subway cars. The station says free, advertised Wi-Fi is available.

The City of Toronto will also hire more outreach workers by May to provide shelter beds and mental health support to unhoused people who may be sleeping in TTC stations. I’m here.

John McMulle of the Canadian Urban Transportation Association said a task force of transportation agency representatives from across the country had been formed to make recommendations in the coming months to address safety concerns.

Part of the process includes efforts to understand some of the social issues that have led to violence in transit.

“There’s a strong sense of urgency,” McMull said. “This is a problem facing Canadians across the country, from big cities to small communities.”


This report by the Canadian Press was first published on March 31, 2023.

The Canadian Press’ health coverage is supported through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association.

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