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Police poised to double transit system patrols

42 more officers; TTC’s special constables being replaced

By Natalie Alcoba

Toronto police are poised to double their TTC patrols, as the city reduces its special transit police force.

In a report to the Police Services Board, Police Chief Bill Blair described a plan in this year’s 2010 operating budget to replace a “significant portion” of the TTC’s special constables with 42 more police officers.

There are already 40 police officers on transit.

Brad Ross, spokesman for the TTC, confirmed that over time, people will see more police on subways and buses. He said there would be no layoffs as a result of the plan, and that special constables would be reduced through attrition.

Mr. Ross said police are ultimately responsible for public safety in Toronto, which is the driving rationale for a new security model that puts them in charge.

“If you were to go down into the system I don’t think anybody would have any concern with more police presence on the system,” Mr. Ross said.

Details of the TTC plan come as police continue to argue with the city for more funding.

The Toronto Police Service has a uniform strength of 5,500 officers. Its 2010 net operating budget is $37-million more than last year —and brass say that’s largely due to an arbitrated salary settlement that they cannot control. City staff are asking police to cut $5.9-million off their $892-million net operating budget.

In his report, Chief Blair noted the force will have to redeploy 42 officers to transit duties, a move that “results in significant savings to the TTC 2010 operating budget due to the redistribution of responsibilities.”

Mr. Ross noted both the TTC and the police get funding through the city — so any decreases or increases are essentially a wash when it comes to the city’s operating budget.

There are currently about 100 special constables patrolling the transit system. They are not armed, but have all the powers of a peace officer. Mr. Ross said remaining special constables will still be enforcing TTC bylaws like fare evasion or smoking.

In the report, Chief Blair says the only way the force can save on uniform officers is by not hiring replacements. It will cost $3.8-million to outfit and train 258 new officers this year. But eliminating all recruitment classes would force Toronto police to redeploy school resources officers, transit officers and some neighbourhood officers to front line primary response, he wrote.