Rooting out perverts and racists on the TTC

Attention perverts, racists and bullies who ride the subway, buses or streetcars.


Not only is Big Brother watching but perhaps the person next to you, too. TTC riders may not be just passengers anymore but potential video cops.

A little vigilante-style justice is on the way.

“Those who would harass people, you are on notice,” said TTC customer service manager Kirsten Watson. “We know you are out there.”

There have been dozens of groping incidents this year alone. With the help of riders and a new app, police and special constables will find out the locations of those responsible for such acts and obtain their pictures, too.

“Harassment” on the TTC “is far too common,” said Watson, adding the TTC is “identifying, acknowledging and owning” this concern with a view to “stopping it.”

That means if someone sees something happening on their commute, they can report it using their phone which will be hooked up to a Wi-Fi system in many TTC stations.

The program is called “This is Where” — a free app that allows people who witness crimes or other disturbing incidents to reach the TTC’s command centre right away.

“This is one of the most important campaigns the TTC has undertaken,” TTC Chair Josh Colle said of the contract — worth more than $500,000 — with a company called Elerts, which has deployed similar systems in several American transit systems.

An ad campaign will follow, featuring headlines such as “Savi faced violence when confronting a racist” or “you can help combat harassment on the TTC.”

Of course, time will tell how this will work.

On one hand, I love it because there’s nothing that roots out creeps better than shining light on them. On the other, it seems like a lot to ask regular riders to do — especially “confronting” a racist or being in “combat” over anything.

There is also the concern of false accusations and potential misunderstandings — where somebody could unjustly face allegations of being a racist or a pervert.

But the head of the Toronto Police’s sexual assault squad — Insp. Pauline Gray — described this technology as a “tool” to be used by tipsters.

No assumptions will be made without a proper investigation and normal “protocols” will be followed for use of images and potential criminal charges.

The privacy side of it will also be a challenge because all of this information is going to be stored by the TTC.

Of course, on the positive side, it won’t be as easy for the harassers to get away with. As TTC spokesman Brad Ross noted, this should end social media shaming and ensure cases are dealt with professionally.

“We have trained 18 people,” he said of those who will monitor these images.

If people abuse it, or try to make false claims, they, too, could face prosecution. But the main focus, said Watson, is on stopping harassment on the TTC.

And there’s now an app riders can access to help the cops do exactly that.

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