[Hpn] Pilot project gives housing authority staff power to arrest

Graeme Bacque graeme.bacque@3web.net
Fri, 10 Nov 2000 05:26:39 -0500


Nov. 10, 2000. 01:16 EDT  The Toronto Star

Security guards deputized
Pilot project gives housing authority staff power to arrest

Cal Millar
STAFF REPORTER

The security guards who patrol Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority
property have been given special power to arrest people they suspect are
involved in criminal activity.

Solicitor-General David Tsubouchi told a news conference yesterday at
Toronto police headquarters that 55 members of the security staff have been
appointed special constables as part of an 18-month pilot project at 110
housing sites across the city.

Their new powers will help them zero in on public disorder, trespassing,
drug offences and liquor violations, which Tsubouchi said were the type of
complaints they are called on to handle on a daily basis. ``The special
constable designation will help the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority
security services deal more effectively with problems. They will have
limited, specific police powers and authorities and will be under the
supervision of the Toronto Police Service.''

He said security officers working on housing authority property will wear
protective vests and carry pepper spray, handcuffs and batons, but will not
be allowed to carry guns or other weapons. They are also prohibited from
pursuing suspects who drive off in vehicles, he said.

Tsubouchi said it's important the security guards have the tools to respond
to the needs of the 135,000 residents who live in housing authority units.

``We want all citizens to be safe and feel safe in their homes,'' he said.
``We support the MTHA's effort in looking for new ways to provide
security.''

Tsubouchi said there are some 20,000 security-related calls annually on
housing authority property and until now staff have had to call police to
take people suspected of criminal activity into custody.

Toronto Councillor Gordon Chong (Don Parkway), chair of the housing
authority, said the initiative will save police time and allow the
authority's security people to work more effectively.

``It will free up our people. They are not going to be sitting around
waiting for an already overburdened police service to come and pick up a
prisoner.''

Chong said the housing authority has a $10 million budget for the security
staff and designating security officers as special constables won't cost any
more money.

Deputy Chief Joe Hunter said security staff at the University of Toronto and
the Toronto Transit Commission already have special constable powers.