12/11/2014 06:33 EST | Updated 02/10/2015 05:59 EST

Armed TTC fare inspectors unsettle riders

The TTC's new fare inspectors are on streetcars to make sure no one is riding for free, but their presence is unsettling for some commuters.

About 20 inspectors have been working on the Spadina and Queen streetcars for several months, and they are armed with handcuffs, batons and flak jackets.

Onorio Vitti is one of about 20 fare inspectors who recently started checking streetcar passengers for proof of purchase. 

How will officers be policed?

"People are shocked usually. You just see them wide-eyed when we hop into the streetcar," Vitti said. "We tell them they can get a ticket, a warning, or educate them if they're not used to the system."

The batons are meant to enforce the inspectors' powers should they be threatened or need to make an arrest, but some residents are disturbed by the armed inspectors. 

"I find them a little intimidating," said rider Danial Calahan, "Why give out weapons if they aren't necessary?" 

It's the same concern raised by Councillor Gord Perks raised the same concern, asking the TTC to explain how those officers would be policed.

TTC spokesman Brad Ross promises oversight in case of complaints.

"We have a unit in our HR department. It's called the special investigation unit," he said.

Inspector presence will expand to King streetcars in January and the TTC will hire another 80 by 2015.