TORONTO - There may not have been any terror alert put out to the public or actual danger to passengers on the subway.
But that doesn’t mean somebody wasn’t terrorizing the TTC and the police.
And playing a frightening game of cat and mouse from both the Eglinton and York Mills subway stations.
If you thought there were an unusually high number of service stoppages on the subway last week, you were right. It was not a drill.
“We have suffered a series of bomb threats,” TTC CEO Andy Byford confirmed Monday, adding they “were proven to be spurious.”
However, the threatening calls were menacing and had authorities jumping.
Toronto Police confirmed a 54-year-old man was arrested late Sunday night in the Eglinton Station and taken into custody after an extensive search.
No bombs or weapons were found and police don’t believe more than one person was involved or that there’s further need for investigation.
Aaron Braham Finkler is charged with five counts of public mischief by providing false information.
He appeared for a show cause hearing Monday at the 1000 Finch Ave. W. courthouse, where he was remanded into custody until a yet-to-be-determined date.
“There was at no time any safety concern to the TTC or the public,” police spokesman Meaghan Gray said.
They know that now.
But they didn’t know that last week. With security worries the way they are in 2016, it was a difficult situation for both the TTC and police.
There were threats and great concern over a number of days last week with repeated calls by someone claiming to have placed a bomb on the subway.
“We were absolutely all over it,” said Byford, who “managed” the crisis on the London Tube during the July 2007 bombings and other serious incidents.
After last month’s terror bombings in Brussels, there is always heightened concern.
Sources tell me authorities also knew this was no kid playing a prank.
“A pattern began to emerge,” said Byford. “We have a procedure that we operate when there is a bomb threat made against us. Even though we don’t want the disruption, we don’t take any chances.”
And they didn’t.
“In each case our security procedure kicked in,” he said.
On all five occasions, subway service was suspended and the trains, stations and tracks searched. Bomb sniffing dogs were also deployed.
Although there was “no substance” to the threats, Byford said authorities knew they had to catch whoever was behind them. TTC special constables teamed up with police and put together a strategy.
With the help of “CCTV,” Byford told me, they were able to determine “when the calls were made, where there were made from” and after capturing a “voice,” they were able to “get a description” of a suspect.
The man arrested, according to police sources, is not known to police.
It was excellent police work.
However, the most important question for Byford and the TTC is should they have told the public about multiple bomb threats?
“On one hand you are balancing how much credence do you give it,” Byford said, adding the last thing anybody wants is to attract copycats.
On the other hand, in light of the world’s terrorism fears and the fact that there have been so many terror targets including in Canada, it has to be taken seriously.
“That’s always a judgment call,” he said. “We do take advice from the police.”
Byford said he leaned on his experience at the London tube with problems in the past to help determine what might be a real threat and what might be something coming from a troubled person’s bluffs.
“If we thought there was a genuine threat to TTC customers, we would (indefinitely) suspend the service.”
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