Montreal's public transit authority plans to hire about 60 new workers to improve security and cleanliness in the metro system.

The hires will include roughly 20 "safety ambassadors," a newly created role combining safety and operations duties. The STM also plans to bring on around 20 extra special constables and 20 custodial employees.

Reports of safety concerns by STM customers have increased in recent years.

In 2020, there were 662 safety complaints related to the STM's buses and metros, ranging from reports of drug use to behavioural concerns.

That number rose to 716 in 2021 and 983 in 2022, according to STM data. There were 501 complaints in the first quarter of 2023 alone.

"Let's face it. Getting out of the pandemic, we had a rough winter," STM board chair Éric Alan Caldwell told CTV News. "We had some cohabitation issues, drug use issues, we had some instability issues in the metro."

"We just cannot operate the metro like we were doing it before the pandemic," he added. 

The STM says the creation of its new safety ambassador team, to be introduced this summer, was inspired by similar programs in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Philadelphia. The workers will be trained to identify safety issues and manage large crowds caused by major events, among other duties.

"They will be able to activate safety protocols [and] de-escalate some situations; they will be able to inform or reassure riders that need information for their safety," Caldwell explained.

He said safety ambassadors will serve as the "eyes and ears" of the metro and can reach out to special constables if more intervention is needed.

Around 20 more constables, who are trained as peace officers, will also be hired as part of the STM's plan. Special constables are tasked with enforcing metro rules and intervening in situations that threaten customer safety.

Caldwell said part of the STM's aim is also to connect vulnerable users, such as unhoused people, with the right resources.

"We want to be part of the solution. We work with the SPVM, we work with the health network, we work with the social service network, we work with community groups. We have to make sure the ride is safe and we have to make sure we [...] get help to those who need it."

In a press release, the STM noted that a "changing profile of people passing through or seeking refuge" on the metro means an update on the "methods used to keep metro stations clean" is also required.

The addition of 20 or so extra custodial employees will focus on "problematic" areas, such as downtown stations.