After a female parking officer was allegedly pushed by a taxi driver while issuing a ticket near Yorkville earlier this week, the Toronto police parking enforcement unit is sounding the alarm about a sharp increase in assaults against its officers, saying they’ve more than doubled in the last two years.
Assaults against the officers climbed steadily from 16 in 2014 to 37 in 2016, representing an increase of more than 100 per cent, according to parking enforcement operations supervisor Brian Moniz. This year alone, there have already been another seven assaults, he says.
The majority of the incidents involve officers being pushed, shoved or having their feet or arms hit or run over by vehicles, Moniz told CBC Toronto.
“Unfortunately, a lot of times I think people just see the uniform and they obviously don’t know us as individuals. We’re human just like everyone else,” said Peter Bouhs, a shift supervisor with Parking Enforcement West.
“They don’t realize that when they’re assaulting one of us, we are actually peace officers in the course of our duties — and they will be charged with that,” he said.
Bouhs says general frustrations among drivers, the hustle and bustle of city life and simply a bad day often can make the routine job of a parking officer a challenge.
Racism, physical assaults not uncommon
And he’s not alone.
Nigel Fernandes has been doing the job for some nine years. During that time, he says he’s experienced everything from obscenities hurled at him, racial remarks and once had a woman drive over his foot.
“Fire [services] came and literally had to cut my foot out of my boot,” Fernandes said. “One foot is probably a quarter of an inch larger than the other, so I do notice.”
The job can take a toll on officers, says Fernandes, who see everything from severe accidents to children being left alone in vehicles.
“It’s an emotional beat-down every day but we learn to persevere and work through,” he said.
Bouhs says another possible explanation for the increase could be a spike in fines by the city for certain kinds of offences.
Fines for certain offences up too
Last spring, the city raised fines by as much as $110 for drivers caught blocking a sidewalk, parking in a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane, double parking or stopping in a TTC zone.
Parking officers are trained to avoid confrontation at all costs and calmly explain to people what their options are for fighting tickets in court, says Bouhs.
“But if they feel that they are in danger, then we’re obviously going to call the police,” he said.
Ultimately, he’d like the public to understand officers are just doing their jobs.
“You don’t want to have a criminal record over a parking ticket. It’s just not worth it.”
As for the taxi driver in Wednesday’s incident, he was arrested, police said in a a release Friday — and charged with assaulting a peace officer.
A 23-year-old repeat drunk driver who killed a Toronto cyclist and fled police at 200 km-h was sent to jail Wednesday.
Darya Selinevich, a former highly regarded law clerk and aspiring paralegal, appeared stoic as a judge sentenced her to seven years, reduced to four and a half years in acknowledgment of time already spent in jail since the June 11, 2015 crash that killed Zhi Yong Kang, the 44-year-old father of a 15-year-old boy.
Just one month before drinking heavily and slamming a BMW into Kang at almost double the speed limit, as he pedaled along Finch Ave. W., Selinevich had received a one-year-driving ban for speeding with double the legal limit of alcohol in her system — intoxication so severe she passed out at a police station.
After leaving Kang dying on the ground shortly after midnight, Selinevich raced through the residential neighbourhood, swerved around a police car and ran a red light before pulling into a strip mall and fleeing from the car which kept moving with locked doors.
At the time of her arrest, the Richmond Hill woman’s social media accounts glorified drinking and driving with photos of a wine bottle in a car, a speedometer at 202.5 km-h and a R.I.D.E. poster with her added joke that ride-home options, in addition to a bus, cab, police car or ambulance, were “option 5, my car.”
Yulian Liao, Kang’s ex-wife and the mom of their son, sobbed quietly as Justice Leslie Pringle described the crash in grisly detail before sentencing Selinevich for her admitted crimes of impaired driving causing death, failing to stop at the scene and for police, refusing to provide a breath sample and driving while disqualified.
The jail term came as pedestrians and cyclists are dying on Toronto streets at an alarming rate, and safety advocates demand legal reforms in hopes of saving lives and reflecting the toll drivers can take.
In many cases drivers who are at fault when they kill someone, but not drunk and do not flee, receive a fine of $1,000 or less under provincial traffic laws rather than face Criminal Code sanctions like Selinevich.
Det.-Const. Arthur Lane of Toronto police traffic services said outside court the Kang family remains “devastated” but he is satisfied with the jail term.
“In previous years we’ve had low sentences and so I’m glad to see that the sentences now are starting to move up in duration,” Lane said. “Society’s looking at these cases in a more serious light and that’s going to be helpful.
“The public should know that this kind of activity is absolutely abhorrent . . .”
Court heard Kang was exceptionally smart, graduated from “the Harvard of China” before moving to Canada, had a “maverick” personality and played sports and cycled with his beloved son.
Dong Kang said in a victim impact statement he was “deeply hurt” by his younger brother’s violent death and has struggled with depression and other health problems since the crash shortly after their father’s death.
Still, in her statement, Kang’s ex-wife said the family hopes the young woman one day achieves her dream of becoming a paralegal and has the same strong family supports as the cyclist she killed.
“Above all, we hope she has more patience in whatever she might do in the future,” Liao wrote. “We would like her to know we are immensely comforted by our family and friends surrounding us.”
Court heard Selinevich, originally from Russia, dropped York University law and society studies after a co-op placement led to a job as a law clerk/legal assistant. In a letter to court a former employer described her as intelligent and trustworthy.
But she ran with “high risk” friends and binge drank, especially after the deaths of four friends within two years, court heard. She is now a model prisoner, studying life skills, substance abuse, international business and, by correspondence, “dozens of bible studies” with an average of 95.9 per cent.
Selinevich did not address the court, saying “Yes” quietly when the judge asked if she understood her sentence.
“You are clearly someone who is intelligent, you are clearly someone who has the potential to learn from the horrendous crimes that have been committed in this case,” the judge said. “Good luck.”
Ontario is reminding consumers that, as of January 1, 2017, new requirements are in place for tow truck or vehicle storage services designed to increase transparency and strengthen consumer protection.
The province is also taking action to improve the safety of tow trucks and their operators by including tow trucks in the province’s existing Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration system as of January 1, 2017. This change will improve road safety through government monitoring and enforcement measures.
Hotel and short-term accomodation tax also clears major city hall hurdle after debate.
Mayor John Tory’s executive committee unanimously approved moving forward with road tolls for the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway on Thursday, though not without some fierce debate.
Council will also consider a tax on hotels and short-term accommodations, like Airbnb rentals. The city won’t, however, seek permission from the province to tax alcohol or tobacco sales, an option that had been tabled at the beginning of the day.
The budget committee, meanwhile, will be asked to look at the possibility of introducing a 0.5 per cent property tax levy that will be directed to the City Building Fund. It will also consider changing the land transfer tax rebates given to first-time homebuyers so they are in line with the new rules unveiled by the province last month.
The city is grappling with how to pay for $33 billion worth of major transit and infrastructure projects.
Tory’s motion to implement the road tolls — which could cost around $2 per trip — was approved, although with some amendments introduced by other councillors, including a potential yearly cap on how much commuters will pay in tolls.
City council would still have to approve road tolls before they come into effect. The city would also need approval from Queen’s Park tolls in.
Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who represents Ward 34, Don Valley East, introduced the motion calling on city council to cap the amount Torontonians will pay on tolls per year, though he declined to set a specific amount.
“My residents are affected more than any other community in the city,” he said.
“You have to spread the pain of these revenue tools.”
Minnan-Wong’s motion also suggested looking at how the tolls will be collected, suggesting a dynamic pricing model could be put in place.
The executive committee also unanimously approved a motion by Coun. David Shiner that recommends asking the province to exempt any road tolls from the Harmonized Sales Tax.
Drivers may not like paying the tolls, Shiner said, but they’d hate “paying a tax on a tax.”
Budget Chief Gary Crawford, meanwhile, defended dropping the potential alcohol and tobacco taxes, saying the revenue tools the executive committee did approve were the fairest, most affordable and most transparent.
Some fighting back against taxes
Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, who showed up to the meeting with a pair of boxing gloves, told CBC Toronto he is going to fight “every tax and every fee.”
“In a flash, we’ve approved an unprecedented amount of taxes and fees to be looked at without consulting the rest of Toronto,” he said.
Sean Meagher, executive director of the non-profit social justice organization Social Planning Toronto, expressed concern that road tolls would affect the budget years from now, but are not an immediate fix.
“The city manager’s named a bunch of very useful tools — things like harmonizing the land transfer tax, closing some tax loopholes for corporations,” he said.
“Those are things we can have in the immediate term.”
‘A step in the right direction’
Potential road toll revenue is earmarked for transit and infrastructure projects. With this plan, city council is “finally beginning to take action on fighting congestion and building more transit,” Tory said during a midday news conference.
But Tory has previously said that, while road tolls will raise about $200 million annually, the potential revenue would still fall short of addressing all the city’s transit needs.
“It’s a really good start but it’s not going to be sufficient,” said City Manager Peter Wallace during the morning meeting session.
Speaking to CBC Toronto, Coun. Joe Cressy, who represents Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina, said the proposed tolls and taxes are a “a step in the right direction.”
“The city of Toronto doesn’t have the money today to maintain the city we have, let alone the money to build the city we want,” he said.
“And if you’re going to build a strong city, and a fair city, you need to pay for it.”
Tory not backing down
In his news conference, Tory said he’s glad to have a “good, open, lengthy discussion” about the proposed revenue tools.
But he coupled this with strong words to anyone opposing the measures, either at city hall or Queen’s Park.
“If they are opposed to road tolls, and some of these other measures as a means for paying for some of these kinds of things, I think they have an obligation to spell out what they would use instead,” Tory said.
Or, he added, detractors should “indicate honestly to the public that they would have no intention of supporting the measures that I believe are absolutely necessary.
Automated speed enforcement (ASE) technology on municipal roads, which takes pictures of speeders’ licence plates and is already used in many parts of North America and Europe, and for community safety zones and school zones
The ability to create zones with reduced speed limits to decrease the severity of pedestrian-vehicle collisions in urban areas
A streamlined process for municipalities to participate in Ontario’s Red Light Camera program without the need for lengthy regulatory approval.
Ontario has heard from municipalities seeking to improve safety in their communities in the wake of collisions involving children, seniors, other pedestrians and cyclists, and is proposing these changes as a result.
Making roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians of all ages by giving municipalities options to enforce traffic laws is part of Ontario’s plan to create jobs, grow our economy and help people in their everyday lives.
Speed is one of the biggest killers on Ontario’s roads: 14 per cent of all people killed on our roads in 2013 died in collisions where speed was a factor.
In 2013, approximately three out of every four speed-related collisions occurred on municipal roads.
Studies show that lowering the speed limit from 50 km/h to 40 km/h in urban areas would reduce the number of deaths by half.