By Joti Grewal and Michelle McNally
While it has only been in operation for three months, the SafeTTC app has helped lead to three arrests.
The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) launched its SafeTTC app in early September to combat harassment and crime on public transit. So far, three arrests have been made – two related to sexual assault and one for robbery.
The app allows riders to discreetly report safety concerns they observe or experience to the TTC’s Transit Control Centre, according to the company’s website.
According to Susan Sperling, a manager at TTC Corporate Communications, the app currently has 2,700 registered users and has recorded 574 reports of unwanted behaviour as of last week. Harassment accounts for the largest number of reported cases at 22 per cent.
“We’re pretty pleased about it, that people are using (the app), and are using it appropriately,” Sperling said. “Our goal was to make a safe system safer.”
Riders can use WiFi in TTC stations and on platforms to report incidents as they happen. If a rider does not have access to WiFi while in transit, the app saves the report until it can reconnect with the network.
Third-year nursing student Raveena Persaud is concerned about the app’s practicality, since riders can only access the WiFi on platforms and not in tunnels. Using the yellow alarm strips, she said, may yield quicker results.
“There’s no reception down there. And if (there is), it’s not that good. And it takes time as well. I think the button would be a good idea,” Persaud said. “Why would you take out your phone and go to the app? It’s time consuming.”
In conjunction with the app, the TTC also introduced their #ThisIsWhere campaign. The hashtag is used to raise awareness about riders’ negative experiences. Posters can be seen in subway stations and on trains that share people’s stories like, “#ThisIsWhere Julia was groped on her way home from work.”
Mark Lee, an associate professor and interim director at Ted Rogers School of Retail Management at Ryerson, said the TTC is being proactive to mitigate negative behaviour.
“It can be an effective solution because in the old days, if you think about how we monitor behaviour, negative behaviour, in TTC or any public transportation, (it) was through camera,” Lee said.
“The app allows people to be in real live action as it goes on right there, it’s not just particular security guards or police monitoring the situation. Everybody is taking responsibility and monitoring what’s going on around them.”
Momna Sheikh, director of social media at the Ryerson Marketing Association, praises the TTC for their #ThisIsWhere campaign, but said the company can make some improvements.
Seikh said that TTC riders are taking to social media to share their experiences of harassment, but the company needs to make more of an effort to respond to those riders and focus more on the solution and not just the problem.
The hashtag #ThisIsWhere is also used online for other conversations that don’t pertain to the TTC—including the Detroit Red Wings, who use the slogan to declare hometown pride—but Lee doesn’t think this hinders the effectiveness of the campaign.
“I don’t think a hashtag is always specific to a company or situation…given that the name is generic enough that other organizations and campaigns can use it, I think it’s a great way to create awareness and get people (feeling) more protected,” Lee said.
The TTC will release an official report about their initiative in February.