Toronto.com on gangs and guns meeting

While I was sitting on my duff enjoying Neighbour’s Night Out, a real reporter, Lisa Rainford, attended the meeting to debrief residents after the recent arrests and gun seizures in Weston:

Six weeks after police seized 80 guns off the streets of Toronto as part of operation ‘Project Patton’ — which targets the infamous Five Point Generalz gang with ties to Weston —  officers spoke to the community about its after effects.

The seizure was one of the largest in Canadian history, Toronto police told the dozens of residents who attended a public meeting

The police outlined the many risk factors for gang involvement—and revealed a sad fact. Most gang members are children.

“Fifty per cent of gang members are under the age of 18,” Chhinzer said. “Education is our best bet.”

 

Action is needed on gun control.

Last night’s senseless and tragic shootings on the Danforth are more evidence of Toronto’s gun problem. More ruined lives and shattered families at the hands of a (probably disturbed) young man with a gun.

I agree with Mayor Tory when he asks, “Why does anyone in this city need to have a gun at all?”.  There is no good reason for anyone in this city to own a handgun. If you are a target shooter or collector, sorry; you should realize that the safety of the public must come before your hobby.

For those who believe that owning a gun will protect you and your loved ones, think again. The numbers show that guns don’t work for self defence. Statistics from our neighbours to the south amply demonstrate that the person most likely to be shot by a gun is its owner. About one child per week in the U.S. is accidentally shot by a family member’s gun.

A person pulling the trigger on a gun is most likely to be shooting themselves, then their family, then commit a felony, then way, way, way down the line, if they’re lucky, they hit a bad guy.   – Psychology Today

Until recently, most guns used in criminal acts came from the U.S. Now, the majority are supplied domestically from legal and illegal sources or from burgled gun collectors.

The Harper government weakened gun laws in this country in 2012. At the time they insisted that it was the right thing to do, emulating their Republican and NRA friends. Unfortunately, we are seeing the results of that misguided legislation.

Firearms flooded into Canada after Stephen Harper’s Conservative government dismantled the federal long gun registry in 2012 — nearly two million rifles, shotguns and handguns were imported for retail sale across the country over just five years, federal records show. iPolitics.ca 

The Trudeau government has proposed legislation that will tighten gun purchasing requirements. The legislation has been criticized for being too weak. This Liberal platform promise has languished for too long and needs urgent action.

One thing is clear in all the (legitimate) studies; gun control works. What then needs to be done?

There should be:

Guns are far too readily available to far too many people – Mayor Tory

ShotSpotter is a misguided response.

Apparently this unfortunately named thing is an expensive, microphone-based technology designed to triangulate on the sound of gunfire and pinpoint its location. The company responsible admits that its technology is only about 80% accurate in identifying gunfire yet charges a hefty amount for the installation plus an annual monitoring fee of around $300,000 for a city the size of Toronto.

Microphones throughout the community. From YouTube.

Councillor Frances Nunziata, the newest member Toronto’s Police Board was quoted in the Toronto Star as saying, “We’re all fed up with gun violence” and, “It’s enough playing political games, we need to get this done”.  Ms Nunziata, in office since 1988 has herself played political games for decades by voting for low property taxes and against efforts to ease poverty. The results of the city’s collective failure to deal with poverty are becoming evident in Toronto’s recent surge in gun crime.

ShotSpotter is a technology that gets around the need to work with a community to report crime. Instead, it is imposed on them and treats a community as hostile by using the police as an occupying force.

Readers may be aware that Michael Tibollo, Ontario Minister of Community Safety has been heavily criticized for announcing that he donned a bulletproof vest and went on a Toronto Police night shift in the Jane / Finch area. (To their credit, Mayor Tory and Premier Ford chose to take the same excursion without the vests.) Not to be outdone, council self-promoter Giorgio Mammoliti got in on the act Friday, doing the same tour (Jane and Finch is in his ward) and seeking the protection of a vest. As of Saturday morning, there was no indication that the councillor had survived his ride-along. Mammoliti has been representing the people of Jane and Finch since 1995. Sadly, most of his efforts seem to go into self-promotion and erecting a giant flagpole rather than doing anything to help constituents.

The new minister and veteran Councillors Nunziata and  Mammoliti ignore the fact that hundreds of thousands of people live and work in areas like Jane and Finch every day of the year yet have no protection from crimes and other dangerous random events. Minister Tibollo’s accusers have called him a racist but his ignorance of community safety issues does not bode well either.

As for ShotSpotter – it’s something that will allow the Police Board to say that they have done something but it’s largely ineffective. What is needed from our short sighted Police Board and Council, is money spent on citizen outreach so that police aren’t seen as an occupying force but rather the arm of every community in this city. That’s what will achieve results, not gimmickry. We also need money consistently spent on fixing public housing and anti-poverty programs, not one-time reactions to perceived crime waves.

Incidentally, ShotSpotter is listed on the Nasdaq exchange and its price has risen more than 54% in less than two months. Coincidence? With North America’s fourth largest city about to sign up, you be the judge. Let’s hope that decision-makers holding the stock have declared a conflict of interest.

 

Woman wanted in Mount Dennis attempted robbery

Toronto Police are looking for Shanta Ramessar, 39, of Toronto. She is alleged to have hit and bitten a 67-year-old man in an attempted robbery near Jane and Eglinton on July 15. The victim required many stitches and was severely injured.

Ramessar is 5’6”, 145 lbs. and has curly long black hair.

Police display seized guns

Yesterday, Toronto Police displayed the 60 handguns seized in this week’s raids on the Five Point Generalz, a Weston-area (but GTA-wide) gang.

The guns are remarkable because many of them have brightly-coloured lowers. They were purchased new, in Florida “to be used, and sold, by the Five Point Generalz”.

Image from The Star

The guns cost about $400 (Canadian) in Florida, and could be sold in Toronto for about $4000. The Deputy Chief said colours were “a first for me. The one in orange looked like a water pistol my grand daughter has.” Drugs, cash, and ammunition were also seized.

75 people were arrested in Project Patton, and about 1000 charges will be laid for weapons, drugs, smuggling, among other crimes. Two of those arrested were minors, nine were women, and “a significant number” had been arrested before. 13 people arrested in Project Corral, in 2010, were rearrested this week, and 68 of the 70 arrested have prior criminal records.

The police recognized that the arrests would not end gang violence in the city, but Deputy Chief Jim Ramer said that those arrested, and any member of the community, would find help leaving the gang lifestyle.

Still capture from the press conference
Still capture from the press conference

70 arrested in gang raids, including in Weston

The Five Point Generalz, a gang that operated in Weston, has been broken up by the Toronto Police in a series of raids across the GTA. 70 people were arrested, and “a significant number of firearms and large quantities of narcotics” were seized.

There have been several high-profile and public shootings in the Weston area—though no fatalities—this year, including a shootout last week near Jane and Eglinton.

Chief Saunders said that they had been responsible for violence across the city, “but specifically within that area of the city, the west end of the city”.
In Weston, the apartment building at 35 King was raided by the Emergency Task Force.

The ETF raiding 35 King St
Raid at 35 King in Weston: Photo from the Toronto Police

Police Chief Mark Saunders said, “We allege that the Five Point Generals are a dangerous street gang that, while having roots in the area surrounding Weston Rd. and Lawrence Ave. W., its criminal activities extended throughout Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area and into other parts of the country, the United States and even as far away as the Caribbean.”

The Five Point Generalz have operated in Weston for many years. A turf war between about 2005 and 2010 led to much violence, and as many as eight homicides, including the murder of 11-year-old Ephraim Brown, killed by crossfire in a gang shootout tied to the gang (the alleged killer was acquitted). Raids in 2010 seriously disrupted the gang, and by 2013, the gang was broke:

“None of them could afford a car,” [a defense lawyer] said. “They were on the wires a number of times talking about what bus they were on and what stop they were getting off. They were living in conditions of poverty.”

Chief Saunders refused to address the history of the Five Point Generalz, saying that he wouldn’t give them credibility. He did acknowledge that they had a long history in the city.