Wanted man surrenders

Demetrius McFarquhar, 24, who was wanted in connection to the murder of David Blacquiere, has surrendered himself to the police.

McFarquhar is alleged to have helped Christopher Enrique Gordon, 18, to have escaped. He has been charged with being an accessory after the fact to murder, obstructing justice, and failing to comply with recognizance.

Gordon remains at large.

Five myths about Weston / Mount Dennis

There is an old saying that perception is everything. There is a widespread set of beliefs about our corner of Toronto. Let’s see where perception meets reality. Readers are invited to share their own observations on these topics.

Myth #1: Weston / Mount Dennis is a high crime area

People are notoriously poor at assessing personal risk. When a murder occurs such as the recent stabbing in the Shoppers Drug Mart parking lot, it (quite naturally) shakes up the community. Because we know the area well and may have at some time walked through that parking lot, it’s only human to imagine that we’re personally at risk from such seemingly unpredictable occurrences.

How safe are we? The answer is very safe. Killings are rarely random and most murder victims have some kind of relationship with their killer. Is the average person at risk of being murdered in Weston? To put it simply, no. Riding in a car, crossing the road or climbing a ladder exposes us to far more risk of death or injury.

An intelligent reaction to such tragic deaths is important. The involvement of police and politicians working with residents in finding solutions to criminal behaviour is essential. If there is a shortage of police on duty, that should be changed – although if 12 Division can only muster seven officers and two traffic officers during one shift (it would be nice to know the time of day), clearly either the police are understaffed or those who do the staffing feel that crime levels warrant such small numbers.

In 2011 we learned that there is considerable overlap in police shifts suggesting that there is still room to maximize police resources.

The press tends to sensationalize criminal behaviour and treat it in isolation rather than look for underlying causes and trends. There is a theory that since we have so many press outlets in Toronto, crime is emphasized more and perceptions are distorted. As a suburb of Canada’s largest city (and the third largest in North America) we do have crime. Incidentally, Weston’s crime rate is no higher than other areas of Toronto which is by the way, the safest major city in North America. When I talk to American friends, they are always astonished that our murder rate is so low. Toronto’s annual murder rate would be a considered a bad month in comparably-sized Chicago.

Myth #2: Weston / Mount Dennis is out in the boonies.

If a short commute to a job downtown or at Pearson Airport is a good thing, Weston is better off than many inner suburbs. It’s only 14 minutes to downtown by UP Express or GO train and a combination TTC/GO-UPX fare is now $1.50 cheaper. Pearson Airport and Bloor Stations are an even quicker commute. Several intersecting bus routes already make Weston a transit hub and the TTC is looking at providing more express buses.

If you like to take in a professional sports game, have a downtown night out or visit the second largest theatre district in North America, UPX trains will take you there and back quickly at all hours.

The new Eglinton Crosstown will open in 2021 providing welcome rapid access to mid-town places like Yonge and Eglinton from Weston GO / UPX Station and the beautiful new Mount Dennis Station. Contrary to rumours, Weston Station is not likely to close once the Eglinton Crosstown opens as it’s far too valuable a piece of infrastructure and will form a stop on any new commuter line.

Although Toronto’s roads are increasingly blocked, we have rapid access to highways 401, 409, 400 and 427.

Myth #3: Weston / Mount Dennis is all apartment towers / there’s nowhere decent to live.

Architecturally, Weston Village, much dating from the early 20th Century, has streets full of residential gems that have somehow survived demolition. Many have been restored to their former splendour along quiet leafy avenues.

Nevertheless, we do have more than our fair share of awful apartment buildings. They were put up decades ago by unscrupulous developers with a wink and a nod from planners and politicians. Are those days over? Planning guidelines written to preserve the character of Weston and Mount Dennis are routinely ignored. We’ll see what happens once the developer friendly Ontario Municipal Board loses its grip on the building process.

Dilapidated rental units close to our newer transit options will find it in their own interest to renovate and improve their properties. That process is well under way.

Hopefully our current politicians along with a revamped approval process will oversee a better quality of new development than in the past.

Myth #4: There’s no natural beauty in Weston / Mount Dennis.

There are few suburbs in Toronto where you can walk to such a variety of beautiful wide open parkland as we have here. Our riverside parks stretching along the Humber are a wildlife and landscape photographer’s dream. There are likewise few places in any city where you can regularly see deer, rabbits, chipmunks, groundhogs, foxes, coyotes, mink and beaver to name but a few.  Birds are also plentiful ranging from red-tailed hawks, owls and woodpeckers to chickadees and tiny humming birds in summer.

Fishing for Atlantic salmon or Lake Ontario trout is a twice annual activity that would cost a small fortune in other countries. Our parks are able to accommodate large family picnics and there are also places for quiet contemplation. Although parkland along the Humber could still use better accessibility (ignored by Council for more than a decade now), there are parts of Weston where there is nothing but nature.

Myth #5: There’s nowhere to eat – restaurants and pubs.

We have many eating places in Weston and while some are very successful, sadly others aren’t patronized as well as they might be. Toronto is known for its huge variety of ethnic restaurants but some local eateries are sadly unpatronized or denied licenses because of vocal nimby groups. On the positive side, successes are growing; one only needs to look at the new P&M, Zeal Burger, Perfect Blend and SuperCoffee to see evidence of people supporting food outlets that have invested in our community. Sadly, the hoops that these new businesses have to jump through are many. It would help if our councillor could ease and speed up the costly and time consuming bureaucratic processes that plague new business startups. Rumour has it that Perfect Blend coffee shop on Weston Road had to delay opening for two years while awaiting various approvals.

So there we have it; there’s a lot more to Weston and Mount Dennis than people give us credit for and the best is yet to come.

Girl charged for accessory to Weston murder

The net is tightening around two men wanted for the murder of David Blacquiere, 54,  near the Shoppers Drug Mart on Weston Road.
Police have charged a 16-year-old girl with being an accessory after the fact, after she surrendered to 12 Division police on Thursday.

The police continue to search for Christopher Enrique Gordon, 18, for allegedly committing the murder, and Demetrius McFarquhar, 24, for allegedly helping Gordon escape.

Detective Rob North told CP24 that the two men are likely in the Toronto area, and that their efforts to evade arrest have been “unsophisticated”.

Update on community crime meeting

Westonian Lindsay Cahill has a report from the community crime meeting held this past Wednesday. Thank you, Lindsay!


The gymnasium at Weston Memorial PS was standing-room only Wednesday evening for the community meeting organized by City Councillor Nunziata. Councillor Nunziata started the meeting on a positive note, discussing possible commercial developments in Weston village including interest from Loblaws at 1966 Weston Road (the current home of Greenland Farm Supermarket) and a community rec centre in the old Scotiabank building.

With the help of officers from the Toronto Police Service (TPS) 12 Division, the meeting quickly turned to safety concerns in Weston. Staff Sgt. Lesley Hildred provided statistics of the types of crimes reported in Weston since January and information about some of the arrests. Much of the crime in the area was termed “nuisance crime” (i.e. cars being broken into, vandalism). Some details were provided about the recent armed robbery at Olympic Variety on King St and the fatal stabbing in front of the Shoppers Drug Mart. At this point, residents began to share their specific concerns about the safety of the area. In response, it was made clear that the TPS is understaffed due to budgetary constraints: residents were very surprised to hear that 12 Division has only seven officers and two traffic officers on duty during one shift. The officers at the meeting emphasized that it is important to call in all crimes to either 911 or 416-808-2222 (the non-emergency line) so that the statistics will show Weston requires additional officers. In addition, Councillor Nunziata pledged to take this issue to City Council and the Mayor and requested our support by attending Council budget meetings (see her website for future information).

There was a continued call from the crowd for a strategy and suggestions for crime prevention.  Some of the options discussed included CCTV (provided by residents or subsidized by the government), a committee of Weston residents who liaise with the TPS and Councillor Nunziata, a possible role for auxiliary police, use of off-duty police officers, and how we as a community can try to decrease crime (i.e. collecting mail and garbage from neighbour’s homes if they are away).

In the final minutes, a petition was collected by Councillor Nunziata’s team for increased police presence in the area. Unfortunately, the meeting came to an abrupt end due to time constraints, with many questions unanswered.

Man murdered outside Shoppers Drug Mart

A man in his 50s was stabbed and killed outside the Shoppers on Weston Road today. Just before noon, witnesses reported a fist fight between a young man and the victim. The victim was found in life-threatening condition, and died in the hospital.

The perpetrator fled in a red SUV, and is described as

a black male in his late 20s or early 30s. He stands around five-foot-eleven, with a slim build and long curly hair. He was wearing all black clothing and a black toque.

The SUV was found in a parking lot not far away, and the perpetrator had fled.

Frances Nunziata has said there will be a community meeting about crime in the neighbourhood on November 22 at 7 pm. The location has not been announced.

 

Shots fired at Weston and Lawrence

Nine shots were fired on Monday near Weston and Lawrence. Nobody was injured.

The perpetrators should be put behind bars for a very long time for their murderous, reckless behaviour.

But, contrary to what I’ve heard people say, Weston is not getting worse. It’s getting better.

This is only the fourth time police have responded to shots fired in Weston or Mount Dennis this year, and there has not been a single homicide (touch wood). The leafy, lovely Humber-side area of Etobicoke has had three shootings, by way of perspective, and Jane-Finch has had 15.

Shootings in Weston this year. The one circled, on Jane, is two incidents, but I don’t know which side of the yellow line they happened on, so I split the difference.

Shootings in 12 Division, of which Weston is a part, are also down over last year. Crime, including murders, has been on a secular, nation-wide decline for three decades.

Shootings are awful, traumatic, and community-hardening events. So thank goodness we are having fewer of them.

12 Division shootings YTD
12 Division shootings YTD

 

Olympic Variety robbed


Olympic Variety, at King and Elm, was robbed yesterday at about 2 in the afternoon. The suspect had a gun, according to police. Nobody was injured.

The police response was swift: many police cars, tactical officers, detectives, and the canine squad were on scene within minutes.