Connie Kennedy takes the bus home late at night from her job as a daycare attendant. Usually, she has felt safe travelling by herself at that time.
But now she’s more cautious as a number of attacks have taken place in Scarborough.
“There have been some strange people on the TTC but for the most part I mind my own business and try to sit away from them,” Kennedy said. “The fact that people have been sexually assaulted is concerning.”
The attacks have some Scarborough commuters like Kennedy on edge.
Alex Poutiainen is forced to commute late at night due to his job. He works across the city in film and commercial production. Sometimes his job will take him far out into the suburbs, downtown or even Etobicoke, resulting in him catching the last train or taking the night bus.
Although he has never felt threatened, Poutiainen has witnessed other dangers on the TTC.
“I’ve seen a theft right in front of me, literally on the bus,” Poutiainen said. “Someone’s smartphone was snatched out of their hands. And I’ve been around arguments between other people.”
Safety resources are available to commuters should they require it.
“Always be aware of your surroundings and stay in well-lit areas,” advised Guy Service, crime prevention officer at 43 Division.
“Know the route you are taking and let someone know your travel schedule. Sit near the driver and if any problems, utilize emergency alarms or equipment that is available to passengers.”
When commuting late, Poutiainen always observes how people are standing, what they’re carrying and where their hands are, he said. He also makes sure to have full vision of everyone.
“I’ve never really been in situations where I worry about my personal safety, but [I’m] just paying attention to my belongings and wanting to avoid any theft or robbery,” he said.
Dan Novak, owner and self-defence teacher of Elite Martial Arts, has some advice for women.
The first thing they should do when in trouble is to keep screaming something embarrassing such as “pervert!”
“I recommend being very loud, screaming, that could draw attention to people in a situation,” said Novak who was also a correctional officer for 13 years.
“If you’re being attacked, go for stuff like the eyes, the groin, sensitive areas. Rip at the Adam’s apple…(and) hit the base of the skull. All those things are softer parts of the body that would inflict maximum damage.”
Novak has learned that fighting is not the answer, but that it’s important to defend yourself if a situation were to happen.
“And you fight as hard as you can, until the fight is over. And you worry about stuff like charges after,” Novak said. “That’s why if it’s something you can prevent, yell. Tell them, ‘Take it easy, I don’t want to fight.’”
Service agrees that self-defence is lawful under certain circumstances. But once the threat is over, you must disengage.
“Once the threat has stopped or the criminal has left, any further actions could result in criminal charges to a victim…. The amount of force must reasonable given the situation,” Service said.
Service also noted items pepper spray and mace are prohibited in Canada. So Novak recommended using a small weapon on the keys or a spray such as perfume or hairspray.
Novak suggests TTC commuters sit on a single-seat. If you have to take a two-person seat, sit on the outside aisle or close to the driver and near exit doors. Standing is also an option.
“I look for cameras everywhere,” he said. “When I’m at the bank machines outside, I look at the little mirror they have there to see if anyone is walking behind me. I’m not paranoid, I’m certainly not watching my back every time but these are little things that make me feel a little better…. You don’t have to live like a prisoner.”