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Toronto police under fire for approving too few crossing guards

Coun. Paul Ainslie wants the city to review its crossing guard policies in school zones.

Toronto police have nearly 800 crossing guards in the program, but not all of them work daily.

Liz Beddall/Metro

Toronto police have nearly 800 crossing guards in the program, but not all of them work daily.

Coun. Paul Ainslie is tired of the police holding up a stop sign when he asks for a new crossing guard.

“The biggest complaint I get from constituents is speeding in school zones,” the Ward 43 councillor said. “But when I ask to get a crossing guard, nine times out of 10, I get turned down.”

He’s not alone. The police receive an average of 75 to 100 requests for new school crossing guards every year, said Const. Clinton Stibbe, but only 10 to 15 per cent are approved.

“While it could be argued that no effort would be too great, nor could resources be better spent, the Toronto Police Service is governed by the reality of competing demands and the ability to pay for services,” the police policy on crossing guards says.

The same document says police will have a public meeting to discuss the results of crossing guard assessments should the community disagree with a decision.

That’s news to Ainslie.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been turned down, and I’ve never had the police come and have a community meeting to explain why they turned us down,” he said.

Council’s public works committee approved Ainslie’s motion Tuesday asking for a review of the crossing guard assessment procedure.

“I don’t expect one in front of every school and intersection, but I think we need a more balanced approach,” he said. “People want their children to be getting to and from school safely.”

Linda Rothman is a post-doctoral fellow at York University and a researcher with SickKids. She’s studied the impact of crossing guards on Toronto streets and says there’s insufficient evidence to show they reduce collisions.

However, she said crossing guards do reduce the amount of dangerous driving near schools.

“You put a guard in and drivers start behaving themselves more,” she said. “You see fewer people blocking crossings and fewer people texting in their vehicles.”

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