On patrol with 3 of Toronto's top cops on 2 wheels
Bike officers from 14 Division allowed CBC Toronto to follow them around for a day
For some it might seem like a dream job, cruising around the city on a bike all day and getting paid for it. But these veterans of the Toronto Police Service, it's a lot more than that.
Sgt. Jeff Zammit, Const. Tony Saffioti and Const. Nick Maicantis are all with the community response unit for 14 Division. They admit, sometimes people will question their credentials when they see the bikes.
"They just think we ride around on a bike all day, looking at girls," Zammit told CBC Toronto.
Maicantis says some people are surprised to hear he actually chose to join the bike unit.
"I've had people ask me, 'Oh, you know,, are you on a bike because you're in trouble?" said Maicantis
Sometimes people even confuse them with parking enforcement officers.
"Writing tickets is not a high priority on our list," said Saffioti
In fact, bike cops go to the places other officers can't, and those are often places where bad things are happening.
"With the bikes we can get into these little lanes, the little nooks and crannies, and get in there and do our investigations," said Zammit.
They took the CBC Toronto crew to one of those places, tucked away in an alley in Kensington Market, where some of their colleagues had just arrested a woman.
"She's wanted on a bunch of warrants," said Zammit. "And we know her quite well."
We were just about to leave when Zammit spotted another problem.
"Look at all the fricken syringes that we have here," he said, pointing to several of them strewn in the grass, just steps away from a row of homes that lined the alley.
"God forbid some kid picks that up and gets pricked," Zammit said." "So what we'll do is we'll pick those all up, we'll bag them and we'll put them in a proper receptacle."
Getting to know the people
Maicantis says one advantage to being on a bike versus a car is the interaction they have with people in the community. They can often build bonds, even with people who have a criminal history.
"Over the years they get to know us as people, as well — you know, outside of the uniform." Maicantis said.
That was a big help for Saffioti when a call came over the radio about a suspect in a sexual assault case.
"It only came over with a nickname and a description, I knew immediately who it was, and I know where he hangs out." Saffioti said.
Within minutes they found the man at a local mission for the less fortunate. The suspect was cooperative as they escorted him out to the street and cuffed him. A search revealed he had a small amount of what appeared to be crack cocaine.
"He was arrested for assault, sexual assault and possession of a schedule one substance," Maicantis said.
Moments later, a police cruiser pulled up and the man was handed off to be taken in for booking.
On the hunt for criminals
For bike cops, it's not always about reacting to calls that come over the radio.
"We're more of a proactive unit; we try to look for stuff. We try to go to problem areas," said Maicantis.
While patrolling Alexandra Park, near Bathurst Street and Dundas Street West, the officers came across a man on a park bench drinking something from a plastic bottle.
"Looks like just a bottle of pop, or whatever," Zammit said. "But in fact it's full of brandy."
The officers could smell the liquor as they rode past the man on the bike path.
"What we'll do is we'll run him on the computer, and find out if he's actually wanted or if he's had any contact with us," Zammit said.
The check came up negative so they let the man off with a warning, but he didn't get his bottle of brandy back.
"We're going to dump the booze," Zammit said before pouring it out on the grass.
At one point in the day, the officers found themselves trying to save a life, only it wasn't human.
"We got a bird; it's on it's last legs here." said Zammit.
"A local passerby was wanting to know if I could do anything," said Saffioti. "I know a local resident of the Kensington Market area that takes care of birds."
They took the bird to the woman's house, unfortunately she wasn't sure she could save it.