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December 7, 2000
Man suspected of anti-women graffiti arrested
43 incidents since 1999: TTC officials ask police to consider hate-crime chargesJonathon Gatehouse
Toronto police are considering laying hate-crime charges against a man accused of defacing the city's subway system with dozens of violent anti-women messages during the past year.
The 37-year-old man, described as a frequent user of the Toronto transit system, was arrested by TTC police at the Bay Station yesterday morning, in the midst of scrawling a "hate-related" message with a black felt-tip marker on the side of a fire cabinet.
Transit officials, who have been baffled by a rash of threatening and abusive messages about women left on station walls and inside subway cars, believe the man is responsible for 43 similar incidents dating back to October, 1999.
"Looking at the writing, they are all very similar," said Tom Myers, superintendent of investigative services for the Toronto Transit Commission.
The man was arrested on a charge of mischief under $5,000, but TTC officials have asked the Toronto police to investigate laying a much more serious count of public incitement of hatred.
The offence carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail.
Mr. Myers said the TTC believes the graffiti is serious enough to justify the hate-crimes investigation.
"The words 'death' and 'kill' were used in some of the writings," he said. "Two of his favourites were 'Toronto women are evil snakes' and 'It's a man's world, bitch.' "
In the past few months, there seemed to be an escalation in the violent language and disturbing acts of vandalism, said Mr. Myers. Recently, a subway advertisement promoting the female country group The Dixie Chicks was defaced with the words "White Demons" and the faces of the performers were scratched out.
"You've got to be concerned with things like that," said Mr. Myers.
"I think it's important that women feel safe in the system."
The messages appeared sporadically for more than a year in almost every station in the system.
With no leads to go on, concerned transit officials had recently contacted police to ask for their help in preparing a psychological profile of the graffiti artist.
Three days ago, however, a rash of anti-women writings appeared in the Bay Station.
TTC investigators, with the aid of several plainclothes agents, staked out the platform and were able to catch the suspect in the act.
Mr. Myers said the timing of the arrest -- yesterday was the 11th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre -- was purely coincidental.
None of the messages scrawled in the system ever made reference to the killings or the man who carried them out, Marc Lepine, he added.
Toronto police hate-crimes investigators were not available for comment last night.
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