Drivers have seen it for years; the steady decline in courtesy and good driving on our roads. Pedestrians and cyclists have noticed it too – yes, sometimes from our fellow pedestrians and cyclists. We’re at the stage now where drivers routinely blow through stale yellow and even red lights. People who think their time is more important than everyone else’s safety weave in and out, cutting people off and travelling at dangerous speeds. Many vehicle plates are covered with dark plastic to avoid detection and window glass is tinted far beyond legal limits. Police officers on our streets are a rare sight – unless on paid duty at a construction or road work site. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage going on there.
Despite the wild west type driving experiences of recent years and the increasing number of deaths and injuries on our roads, there has been a steep decline in the number of traffic violations in our city. Police issued 140,000 fewer tickets in 2019 than they did in 2009. Careless driving charges dropped by 44%.
Are the police focussing their efforts elsewhere? It doesn’t look like it. The City’s homicide rate rose from 2.1 per 100,000 people in 2014 to 3.1 in 2018. Our murder rate was higher in 2018 than that of New York City.
So what’s going on? We have 5400 uniform and non-uniform police officers in Toronto – where are they all? How do they spend their time? If they’re not on the roads, where else could they be? Since tickets are down, they can’t all be in court or doing paperwork. They also respond to fewer types of complaints. Noise issues for example now go to a city by-law department.
Is it a morale problem? Are police having a giant snit because their numbers are down? Why is Mayor Tory not doing something? The failure of Vision Zero was not properly addressed and a name change to Vision Zero 2.0 was seen as the answer. What about Chief Saunders? The whole point of a police force is to protect lives and property by enforcing the law. Effective policing acts as a deterrent to further criminal behaviour. Visibility is part of that deterrence aspect.
In the U.K. beefed up road policing is seen to be effective in combatting other crimes. After all, criminals use the roads and they’re often driving badly. More enforcement on our roads would uncover more criminal behaviour.
In the meantime, we need answers from Mayor Tory and Chief Saunders. The solution belongs with them but neither one seem to be owning the problem.