New safety measures ‘have an impact’, TTC says one year after fatal stabbing of teenager at Keele station

It has been a year since 16-year-old Gabriel Magalhaes was fatally stabbed while sitting on a bench at Keele station, a shocking act of violence that raised serious safety concerns among public transport users.

On March 26, 2023, vs was sitting on a bench on the lower level of the subway station when police allege he was approached and stabbed multiple times in an “unprovoked” attack.

Magalhaes suffered life-threatening injuries and later died in hospital. A suspect, identified by police as Jordan O’Brien-Tolbin, 22, was arrested that night and charged with first-degree murder.

The teen’s death was one of a series of violent incidents on the TTC over a short period of time that sparked fear in those who rely on the transit system every day.

Just a few months earlier, Vanessa Kurpiewska, 31, was stabbed to death on a subway train near High Park station on the afternoon of December 9, 2022.

Police previously said Kurpiewska did not know her alleged attacker, later identified as 52-year-old Neng Jia Jin.

In an effort to restore customer trust following the high-profile incidents, the TTC later unveiled a set of new measures to address concerns.

“We make hundreds of millions of trips each year without incident, but when there are higher profile incidents, like the death of Gabriel Magalhaes and others, these are important areas of concern for us, of course,” said TTC spokesperson Stuart Green. , to CP24. this month.

‘A more visible presence’

Green said that in this year’s budget, the TTC has made “record investments” in safety along the transit network.

Some of the measures have been in the works for years, Green said, noting that a rise in safety concerns really began during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know that during the pandemic we saw more people with mental health or addiction problems take refuge in the transportation system. We also know that wasn’t unique to Toronto. That was something that was happening in many major cities, particularly those with colder environments,” she said.

“We took a series of steps, unprecedented steps, for the TTC to address those concerns.”

He noted that 50 special agents were hired along with 160 new station staff.

“So we have a more visible presence,” Green added.

A three-month deployment of 80 police officers across the transit system was launched in January 2023 in response to a wave of violence on the TTC, which included stabbings and people being pushed onto the tracks.

Green said that while the special deployment ended, Toronto police officers in each division have since made traffic patrols part of their daily activities.

“The good news is that we believe the efforts we started two years ago are having an impact,” Green said.

“We are seeing that the number of incidents and crimes against our customers and employees has decreased, between 20 and 40 percent less than a year ago.”

That data is now publicly available at an online dashboard that was launched by the city last June. It tracks a number of metrics related to safety at the TTC, including the rate of criminal offenses against TTC customers and employees and the number of serious violations occurring across all of the city’s transportation networks.

According the boardThe violation rate against TTC customers per million boardings in February 2024 was 1.93, down from last January’s high of 2.34, but slightly higher than last February.

The rate of violations against employees appears to have seen a steeper decline.

The data suggests the rate of violations against TTC staff fell to 5.67 per 100 employees in February, down from 8.69 during the same month last year.

Customers say they feel safer: TTC

Shelagh Pizey-Allen, executive director of the transit advocacy group TTCRiders, said she believes the increase in station staff has made “a measurable difference” in transit users’ perception of safety.

“At their most recent board meeting in February, the TTC reported that there has been an increase in people’s sense of safety because of these new frontline staff that we are seeing at the stations… So we think that It is really good news to see that these new stations The staff have had a positive impact,” he said.

“People’s sense of safety is really determined by what’s being said in the media and there was a lot of news, there were two really shocking and tragic murders on the TTC last winter… And that really made people feel more feeling of insecurity. “

He said the fact that there have been fewer high-profile incidents of violence on the TTC has “contributed to people feeling safer now.”

He said the rollout of cell service throughout the subway system has also been a notable improvement for safety over the past year.

Some cellular service was rolled out across the subway system late last year, a development that the federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry previously called a “critical public safety issue.”

Green said the transit agency’s most recent customer survey indicates there has been an increase in confidence regarding safety on the TTC.

In a press release last monthThe TTC said its latest survey shows that since October 2023, customer satisfaction with safety on the TTC has increased seven points to 61 percent.

“By adding more customer service agents at stations and expanding supervisory coverage, the TTC is actively working to improve the safety and well-being of both customers and transportation operators,” said TTC CEO , Rick Leary, in a statement accompanying the statement.

Pizey-Allen said that while it is important for people to feel safe on the TTC, these “safety issues are not traffic issues.”

“What’s happening in our city is reflected in the TTC because the TTC is a public space,” he said.

“More supports are needed outside of the TTC in our society, in our city, to support people in crisis.”

Last year, the TTC partnered with LOFT Community Services and the City’s Multi-Disciplinary Outreach Team (M-DOT) Program improve health and mental health supports for vulnerable people across the transportation network.

“We’ve involved street outreach workers, addiction (and) mental health crisis counselors, people who have experience dealing with people who are struggling and people who are on the margins and who may be using public transportation as a refuge.” Green said, adding that these positions will now be a permanent part of the budget.

“We need to have more of a preventative presence in the system and that’s why we’ve taken those steps.”

He said that while the TTC’s safety improvements have had positive results, it is not a “done job.”

“We find these numbers very encouraging, but we certainly don’t stop there,” Green said.

“We are still very committed to ensuring the safety of our customers and employees.”

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