Family moves to Weston and loves it.

This is a headline that will never be seen outside of this publication. Good news will always takes second place to crime and violence.

‘If it bleeds it leads’ is often used in the news business.  News outlets want images and videos violence and crime scenes. It’s visual clickbait and improves ratings. Positive news doesn’t stand a chance alongside death and destruction. As a result, our view of the outside world is often distorted. The media’s focus on violence gives a false impression of our society making it seem more dangerous than it is.

From nicmaxxonline.com

Millions of Torontonians achieve happiness and success daily and nobody gets to hear about it. That’s the nature of news.

When it comes to Weston, things are no different. Hundreds of people moved to Weston in the past couple of years. The vast majority are happy to be here and lead satisfying, productive lives. Sadly, there have been shootings and other acts of violence in our community and these get the lion’s share of attention and that’s not always a bad thing because it’s important that something is done to find the causes and solutions.

Unfortunately, the press has a short attention span. After violent events, the police are asked what they will do to counter an upsurge in violence. The answer is usually a temporary band aid fix until things improve or until other news comes along. We all know that treating the symptoms rather than causes is ineffective.

I am a great fan of probability. This is the branch of mathematics that tries to calculate the likelihood of events. Probabilities are expressed by a number between 0 and 1. For example, the probability of a hot sunny day at this time of year is almost 0. The probability of matching six numbers in Lotto 6/49 is ridiculously close to 0. On the other hand, the probability that a Toronto pedestrian will be hit by a car today is close to 1 (More than two thousand people are hit by cars every year in Toronto).

Our ability to judge probabilities is notoriously poor. For example, how likely are two people in a group of 30 people to have the same birthday?  It’s about 0.7. Put this another way; ask 30 people to think of a number between 1 and 365 and you have an excellent chance that two of those people will guess the same number.

Many of us have bought lottery tickets feeling our chances of matching all six numbers are reasonable enough to keep buying tickets. Certainly much higher than the roughly one in 14 million chance (approx 0.000000071428571428571 as a number) Consider how optimistic we feel when checking our numbers and compare that to our actual chance.

Lotteries; a tax on the mathematically challenged?

What are your chances of getting hit by a car? It depends. If you’re a senior, out on a rainy night, wear dark clothing and cross the road, especially between intersections, your risk is higher. This is not to attach blame to the pedestrian (motorists are legally required to drive safely and adapt to the prevailing conditions) but all of these factors are definitely a consideration, especially when we know that there are intoxicated, careless and inattentive drivers out there.

We can control many risks in our daily lives. We wear seat belts in the car and stay away from the subway platform edge. These are sensible and proven precautions aimed at a real risk. On the other hand, when we overestimate the odds of something happening, our quality of life can suffer.

The probability of being attacked by a shark is tiny – close to that of matching all six numbers. If you stay out of the water, you improve your odds but lose the joy of swimming in an ocean. Yes, people get ‘taken’ by sharks and people also win the El Gordo but we deprive ourselves and limit our possibilities by overestimating dangers.

Crime is generally not random. Attackers are often known by their victims. Much violent crime occurs at night and on weekends most crimes happen at night. Poor and cooler weather seems to discourage crime. July is the month when most shootings occur and January / February have the least. Our current crime wave seems to be partly driven by domestic terrorists looking for notoriety by targeting (usually young and black) people in other neighbourhoods. Social media seems to be the place where they can bask in their new-found notoriety.

So where does that leave people who see crime stories and decide that an area is no longer safe? Is this a reasonable response?

The answer is clearly no for most people.

What can residents do to lower their risk of being a victim?

Since there’s little risk in the first place, the best advice is to carry on and not be ruled by fear. You still cross the road and that’s the most dangerous thing that anyone can do in this city. By fearfully abandoning a neighbourhood, you become a part of the problem and you lower your own quality of life.

To the families who have made Weston their home in recent years; welcome. You were right to move here. Don’t let fear stop you from enjoying your new neighbourhood.

If you see crime you can report it and be rewarded anonymously here.

Scammers defrauding Westonians

A Weston woman—a widow and senior citizen—says she has been scammed out of more than $30,000 by men pretending to be contractors.

The men offered to fix her driveway and a leak in her basement. They began work, excavating around the foundation, and claimed that ever more work needed to be done. They then asked for increasing payments, in cash. After the final payment, they fled, leaving the work very incomplete. The woman now requires a second contractor to come and finish the job.

The contractors and modus operandi fit the description of a fraud being perpetrated across the city.

  • Seniors are solicited by door-to-door salesmen offering to fix the driveway and basement
  • Work is begun and ever-increasing payments are required for work that doesn’t need to be done
  • They ask for cash and will even walk the victims to the ATM

The police are looking for three men,

The first suspect is described as white, five-foot-10, with short dark hair and a medium build. The suspect had a “heavy Scottish accent.”

The second suspect is described as white, five-foot-10, with fair skin, an athletic build and blue eyes. The suspect also had a “heavy Scottish accent.”

The last suspect is also described as white, five-foot-10, in his late thirties, with dark short hair and a muscular build.

 

Some tips to avoid being scammed:

  • Only hire licensed contractors
  • Do not accept work solicited at your door
  • Get multiple estimates on paper
  • Obtain referrals
  • Do not pay in cash, and never pay upfront

 

Weston pharmacist gets 13 years in jail

A pharmacist at Weston PharmaChoice on Lawrence has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for dealing fentanyl. A Weston-area doctor was a co-conspirator. He will be sentenced next month.

Shereen El-Azrak was convicted of selling 2,780 fentanyl patches fraudulently prescribed by Dr George Otto, who worked at a walk-in clinic near Jane and Wilson.

The court estimates that she distributed up to 6,400 patches, worth more than a million dollars on the street.

For each ‘patient’ (each of whom received many patches) Otto received a kickback of $1500, and El-Azrak got $500, according to Global News. The fentanyl packages were sold to two middlemen, who distributed them across the province, as far away as Sudbury.

 

El-Azrak also worked as a pharmacist at the Humber River Regional Hospital, according to The Globe and Mail.

Shooting at Weston and King

The police are investigating a shooting that took place at Weston and King around 5:30 this afternoon. They say that five males in a silver four-door car shot at another vehicle. No victims were located at the time, though 680 reports that a man checked himself into hospital a short time later.

Wanted man: Mohsin Yusuf

The Toronto Police Service are looking for a man alleged to have stabbed another man at King and Weston Road. The police are looking for Mohsin Yusuf, 41, of Toronto. He is 5’10” and 165 lbs, “with short black hair, balding on top.”

Some thoughts on guns and gangs.

About 75% of shootings in Toronto are gang related. For most Weston Web readers that means little – we’re ok because we most of us don’t live in a gang neighbourhood. For those living in public housing, the fear is real. Many (especially black and male) young people are unable to travel to other neighbourhoods for fear of the consequences of straying into gang territory.

The Mayor and Police Chief can often be found behind a podium expressing dismay at a shooting event and lamenting that while everything is being done, there are no easy answers. At the same time, the head of the police union tells the public that there is an easy answer: more cops; while others want a return to provincially funded programs such as TAVIS.

From the Toronto Star.

This might be wrong on all counts except for the number of cops.  Manchester in the U.K has a similar population to ours and has over a thousand more officers and hundreds more support staff. Manchester’s murder rate (a reliable crime indicator) is 2.44 per 100,000 people compared to 3.11 in Toronto. Incidentally, Chicago – a similar sized city to Toronto and Manchester had a murder rate of 23.8 in 2018.

We’ve known for a while what needs to be done but it’s not easy. Solving this multi-faceted  problem is hard, requires brave and intelligent public officials, doesn’t work overnight and it’s expensive in the short term.

Here’s what we know about gangs.

A gang can provide:

  • a surrogate family.
  • perceived safety and protection.
  • a path to money, success and respect.
  • an outlet for frustration and anger.
  • membership in a community.

Successfully combatting the lure of a gang requires more attractive alternatives and young people need to acquire the education and skills that will allow them to choose a more mainstream lifestyle.

More traditional policing is not the only answer. It’s the difference between treating the symptoms of an illness or actually getting at the cause.

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders recently announced a $4.5 million, 11-week program aimed at reducing gun violence. Presumably after 11 weeks, the matter will be taken care of and we can all go back to sleep. In fairness, Chief Saunders is in a tough spot. Every politician is expecting him to do something but without permanent funding, he’s stuck with applying band-aids for short periods of time. As an aside; anyone who can come in to work during home dialysis and after a kidney transplant has my respect.

Clearly we’re at another crisis point and not enough is being done. The Ford government is well on its way to guaranteeing that gang violence will continue. Cuts to the minimum wage and vital services like education, health, housing and school repairs will cause the most damage in poorer neighbourhoods which is where gangs thrive.

From The Hamilton Spectator.

Yes, the Ford government truly knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Here’s an example – instead of allowing the minimum wage to rise from $14 to $15, Ford froze the wage at $14 and promised that minimum wage earners would get a (pitiful) tax break. In effect, the Ford government now subsidizes companies who pay low wages (thus increasing the deficit) yet complains that the government spends too much. Deep thinkers at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce predicted that a minimum wage rise from $11.60 to $14 would ramp up unemployment, the cost of living and would lower profits. In fact inflation didn’t budge, unemployment went down while tax revenues and profits were up. It’s counter intuitive but ‘evidence’ apparently doesn’t fit the C of C / Tory dogma. And in the meantime, a living wage is further out of reach, putting more people at risk of choosing a life of crime.

Is the solution to crime putting more people in jail? Yes for violent criminals as their incarceration protects society. Putting people in jail is expensive and surprisingly it does little to discourage crime. For example, the U.S. locks up more of its population than anywhere else on earth yet the murder rate is 5.3 per 100,000 compared to Canada’s 1.8 (2017 figures).  By all means put hardened criminals in jail and reject bail for those accused of a violent crime; however, in the long run, diverting people into better lifestyles benefits society as a whole – and it’s a lot cheaper than jail.

Yes; answers to gang violence take intelligence, political courage and money. These commodities are sadly lacking when it comes to tackling the problem. The public also needs to support the police; get involved and stop protecting criminals.

From The Denver Post.
What the research says we need to do:
  1. Educate parents on the signs of children’s gang involvement.
  2. Disempower gangs through infiltration, police presence and education to make membership in a gang less appealing.
  3. Increase penalties for smuggling and possession of unlicensed / unregistered guns.
  4. Provide more community facilities so that young people can gather safely.
  5. Publicize the 222 TIPS and rewards program.
  6. Increase the minimum wage to liveable levels and keep it tied to inflation.
  7. Provide incentives for top teachers and administrators to work in challenging schools.
  8. Deny public housing / housing subsidies to known gang members. Evict tenants who accommodate known gang members.
  9. Similar ideas from Mark Towhey here.
Guns.

Somehow, the great thinkers south of the border have convinced themselves (and gullible others) that the answer to gun crime is more guns. Thanks to a bizarre misinterpretation of the Second Amendment of the U.S. constitution, the right to bear arms is enshrined. Naturally, when our neighbour is overflowing with firearms, many make their way here. Handguns being relatively easy to hide are smuggled most often. We also have legitimate collectors and target shooters whose collections are burgled adding to our gun problem.

There has been much talk of a handgun ban in Toronto. Without border guards at the entrances to the city, this is a non-starter. The federal government needs to have the courage to do this nation-wide. There are few compelling reasons for private citizens to own a gun. In the U.S. the most likely victim of a gun in a house is the owner or a family member. There’s no reason to believe that Canada is any different.

Pro Tip: if you know someone with a gun, you can call 222 TIPS and get rewarded if your tip results in a gun being confiscated ($500) or a crime being solved ($50 – $2000). There is absolute confidentiality – even to the point of the (cash) payment.

Man stabbed

A man was beaten and stabbed early Saturday morning near Weston and Lawrence.

This is the third very violent incident this week. On the 21st, Minh Le, 61, was shot and killed near McDonald’s. On the 22nd, Abdikani Ismail, 31, was shot and killed while driving. The police said that both incidents were targeted shootings, but they have not said that they are related.

The police are looking for two men, one of whom is known to them.