Man pulled from Humber today

According to Toronto Police, a 75 year-old man was pulled from the Humber River near Hickory Tree and Lawrence this morning. The rescue was made using a pole to lift the man up to the riverbank. Efforts to revive him were made at the scene and he was transported to hospital in life-threatening condition. It is not yet known how the man entered the water. Read more here.

Where are our police?

Drivers have seen it for years; the steady decline in courtesy and good driving on our roads. Pedestrians and cyclists have noticed it too – yes, sometimes from our fellow pedestrians and cyclists. We’re at the stage now where drivers routinely blow through stale yellow and even red lights. People who think their time is more important than everyone else’s safety weave in and out, cutting people off and travelling at dangerous speeds. Many vehicle plates are covered with dark plastic to avoid detection and window glass is tinted far beyond legal limits. Police officers on our streets are a rare sight – unless on paid duty at a construction or road work site. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage going on there.

Despite the wild west type driving experiences of recent years and the increasing number of deaths and injuries on our roads, there has been a steep decline in the number of traffic violations in our city. Police issued 140,000 fewer tickets in 2019 than they did in 2009. Careless driving charges dropped by 44%.

Are the police focussing their efforts elsewhere? It doesn’t look like it. The City’s homicide rate rose from 2.1 per 100,000 people in 2014 to 3.1 in 2018. Our murder rate was higher in 2018 than that of New York City.

So what’s going on? We have 5400 uniform and non-uniform police officers in Toronto – where are they all? How do they spend their time? If they’re not on the roads, where else could they be? Since tickets are down, they can’t all be in court or doing paperwork. They also respond to fewer types of complaints. Noise issues for example now go to a city by-law department.

Is it a morale problem? Are police having a giant snit because their numbers are down? Why is Mayor Tory not doing something? The failure of Vision Zero was not properly addressed and a name change to Vision Zero 2.0 was seen as the answer. What about Chief Saunders? The whole point of a police force is to protect lives and property by enforcing the law. Effective policing acts as a deterrent to further criminal behaviour. Visibility is part of that deterrence aspect.

In the U.K. beefed up road policing is seen to be effective in combatting other crimes. After all, criminals use the roads and they’re often driving badly. More enforcement on our roads would uncover more criminal behaviour.

In the meantime, we need answers from Mayor Tory and Chief Saunders. The solution belongs with them but neither one seem to be owning the problem.

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.

Gang prevention town halls in Ward 5

The police will be hosting a series of town halls in  the Weston area to address gang membership and violence.

The meetings will be

  • This Wednesday from 6–9 p.m. at York Rec
  • This Thursday from 6–9 p.m. at For Youth Initiative Youth Centre at 1652 Keele St
  • Wednesday, November 20 from 6–9 p.m. at Weston Mount Dennis Community Place Hub at 1765 Weston Rd.

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.

12 Division is the best

Something unusual is going on at 12 Division police headquarters.

The police in 12 Division are, according to a survey of Toronto residents, are the best in the city, in terms of honesty, trustworthiness, objectivity, communication, and freedom from bias. The study, which was released on May 30, surveyed more than 1500 Torontonians for their views of neighbourhood cops.

The survey found “stark” contrasts in how residents viewed police. Whites and Asians generally found police trustworthy and unbiased. Blacks  were much less likely to do so.  For instance, “Nineteen percent of Torontonians believe that the city’s police officers have discriminated against them in the past because of their ethnic background. 50% of Blacks held that view – some 30% above the population estimate.”

There was another remarkable contrast: between 12 Division and the rest. 12 Division led the rest in every measure.

  • 87% of those surveyed in 12 Division found police honest.
    • Only  60% did everywhere else
  • 77% in 12 Division found police trustworthy
    • 53% did elsewhere
  • 10% of residents thought that the police were biased against their ethnicity
    • 28% did city-wide
  • 13% of 12 division residents thought the police had ethnic biases
    • 51% of Torontonians did

This week, Frances Nunziata issued the division a certificate of appreciation to celebrate their accomplishment.