Congratulations to local man Shevan Ellis who graduated from the Toronto Police College last week and is now working as a police constable in Toronto Police’s 53 Division. According to toronto.com, Mr. Ellis came to the Weston Road and Eglinton area from Jamaica in 1998 at the age of 12. He worked in Mount Dennis in the field of mental health and thought that he had something to offer the police in terms of an understanding of mental health issues.
Two Toronto men were arrested in their homes today and have been charged with the murder of Nnamdi Ogba who was murdered in cold blood two weeks ago. At a press conference held on Thursday, March 29, Superinendent Ron Taverner and detective Jason Shankaran discussed the killing and the community response that led to the arrests.
Taverner and Shankaran theorized that the two suspects were arrested so quickly thanks to a sense of outrage on the part of the community along with a highly motivated police force; the police acting quickly to bring the alleged killers of an entirely blameless man into custody. They stressed that Mr. Ogba was a hard working member of the community randomly targeted while visiting friends in Scarlettwood Court. Detective Shankaran told reporters, “You can always judge a person’s family by the people that they’re surrounded by”. “And I knew I was dealing with a good man here”.
Police shift resources to 23 and 12 Divisions
At the press conference, Superintendent Taverner stated that extra police have been moved into the area to boost their visible presence in ‘troubled communities’ such as Scarlettwood so that residents can regain a sense of security in their neighbourhoods. Taverner declined to say how long the extra officers would be deployed but did say, “The public would be proud to know what the (Homicide) officers have done to bring this case before the courts”.
Congratulations to Toronto Police and also to the people who had the courage to come forward and help bring these alleged killers into custody.
Police are still seeking more information from associates of the two alleged suspects in their search for the driver of the getaway vehicle, a dark SUV.
- Contact police at 416-808-7400
- Crime Stoppers (anonymously) at 416-222-TIPS (8477)
- Online: www.222tips.com
- Text TOR and send message to CRIMES (274637).
UPDATE: On Friday March 30, according to the Toronto Star, police announced that the alleged driver had been arrested and was in custody.
Tonight at Scarlettwood Court, there will be a candlelight vigil at to respect the life of Nnamdi Ogba whose life was taken a week ago. Mayor John Tory will be joining the vigil at 7 pm.
Scarlettwood Court is a TCHC housing complex in Greater Weston™, just off Scarlett road, on the opposite side of the Humber. The development was built in the 1960s and is home to hundreds of families from a wide variety of backgrounds. Planners (as they did back then) created an isolated enclave in a beautiful setting overlooking Raymore Park with two main entrances; one from busy Scarlett Road and the other from Waterton. There is a little used pathway that leads down to Raymore Park.
In recent years, several shootings have left residents on edge and fearful. These are the major incidents I have been able to track down.
September 1989 double murder – solved
January 2014: Colin Mohamed murdered – unsolved cold case
September 2015: three men shot – unsolved cold case
February 2016: Bryan Agyei murdered – unsolved
March 2016: gunfire reported – teen arrested
August 2016: a man was shot in the legs in a drive-by shooting – unsolved
April 2017: car found with windows shot out – unsolved
January 2018: Shaquille Wallace shot dead – unsolved
March 2018: Nnamdi Ogba, 26, of Toronto shot dead. – unsolved
*Cold cases are unsolved crimes older than three years.
Toronto Police claim a ‘clearance’ or solving rate for murders of 80%. Clearly 21st Century murders at Scarlettwood have a clearance rate of 0%.
The reason behind the spate of shootings is unclear but the story goes that Scarlettwood is the home of the ‘All Crips Gang‘ which apparently has territorial claims stretching down to Dundas Street. Presumably they deal in drugs and other contraband. There may have been a truce between the various gangs at one time but that seems to have ended. According to police, the latest shooting of Mr Ogba, an electrical engineer, seems to have been entirely by chance; criminals from outside Scarlettwood appear to have selected him randomly.
The local councillor for Scarlettwood (in Ward 2) is Mike Ford who responded to my email on March 19 to say,
“I thank you for bringing this concern to my attention and I do sincerely sympathize with you.
I want to assure you that the safety of Etobicoke is at my highest priority and any violence especially criminal violence is a serious concern.
I have spoken with Mayor Tory and Toronto Police Chief in the past and I will be doing the same for this incident. Although there is no easy answer to this problem I will be following up with yourself and the community for their input on this matter.”
I replied to the councillor that if anyone needs sympathy and help, it’s the law-abiding people trying to raise their families, trapped in the confines of Scarlettwood Court.
Residents told me that dozens of police responded on the night of the murder. Cruisers were parked all along Scarlett Road. Today when I walked through Scarlettwood, there was no police presence and residents confirmed that the police are a rare sight.
What’s to be done?
- The Mayor should bring his travelling podium show and together with Councillor Mike Ford visit Scarlettwood to meet with residents and listen to concerns. This would show solidarity with residents.
- Toronto Police need to get out of their cars and make meaningful and lasting contact with residents. The Community Safety Unit run by TCHC does not absolve police of their ongoing responsibilities. Police also need to avoid showing up in large numbers rather than in ones and twos.
- Community groups and social justice warriors should make this their fight too. They need to contact residents and help organize some kind of community association (if none exists) and start a ‘take back Scarlettwood’ movement.
- Politicians, police and the community should make and implement a plan of action to support residents.
- Because of the limited entrances to Scarlettwood Court, in addition to the existing cameras, it would seem logical to have good quality cameras set up to monitor who comes and goes; cameras with the ability to see images clearly. In 2016, 100 cameras were installed.
Incidentally, the fight for gun control in the U.S. is our fight too. The majority of guns used in Toronto crimes originate in the U.S.
CP 24 hosts an interesting page of statistics detailing crime across the city for the last few years. Visitors can see the occurrence of categories of crime for a particular police division or month and see the trends for a the last few years along with the ‘clearance’ which is police parlance for solved.
Having taken statistics courses in the golden era of the abacus (the more modern plastic ones though), we were trained to stay calm about trends when the occurrence rate is small. For example, murders in 12 Division were down 60% last year. That sounds like a huge drop but the actual number went from 5 in 2016 to 2 in 2017. Wonderful news but while 60% is more impressive, it’s not the whole picture.
More concerning is that certain crimes seem to be hard to solve. Only 28 out of 216 stolen car cases in 12 Division were solved last year for a dismal 13% clearance rate. Not encouraging for those who leave their car outside overnight.
There is some good news.
- Our officers in 12 Division seem to be marginally better at solving crime than their colleagues in the rest of the city. Their clearance rate is 55% for all crime compared to 50% for the city as a whole.
- Across the whole of Toronto, crime appears to have continued its steady downward trend after a blip last year.
- February is the month when criminal behaviour is consistently at its lowest here and across the city.
Find the CP24 page at this link.
Another interesting set of thoughts from Anonymous is our Letter of the Week. Anon was responding to other comments on the image of the new Rockport apartments but first made a public service announcement which is also worthy of a more prominent airing.
..as always from “Fortress Weston”.
So, if I may, before I weigh in on the high rise rentals issue of concern, here’s some helpful news or at the very least, a public service announcement:
“The Community Police Partnership” group is looking for more members, ahead of an upcoming meeting between local police and community members who have already expressed interest in assisting in our troubled community.
The note comes from Councillor Nunziata’s office – sent out this morning – where she extends yet another invitation to anyone else still very concerned about the safety in our community, saying that there’s still time to join the group, if you’d like.
This call to join, stems back to the last major meeting she organized regarding the ongoing concern about “Community Safety in Weston” – the well attended meeting that was held at Weston Memorial Jr. PS, back in mid-November.
You may recall that this came shortly after the stabbing murder in town, ironically near Central United Church, in the Shoppers Drug Mart parking lot.
Many agree that it was an odd, tragic event, that appears as though it could somehow be linked to gang related activity, given the odd, unknown relationship between the players in this drama.
Risky business dealings?
But, no matter the reason, it was unsettling for most of us, even though the Staff Sargent and her team assured us that these types of violent crimes are gang related, unlike the nuisance crimes most complained about.
Anyway, the Councillor’s note this morning is an invitation to consider joining a group of like minded, worried or concerned Weston folks who would work with members of 12 Division in something called, “The Community Police Partnership”, which will try and maintain an ongoing dialogue regarding safety and policing matters.
She’d like to know if there’s anyone else interested in joining the group which will meet in a few weeks to come.
Worried, concerned or down right pissed off and want to do something?
Here’s your chance to reach out to her office and assist.
Make no mistake and no matter what, the members of 12 Division will continue to be on guard for our area, trying to address all concerns, even if many are deemed nuisance crimes, relatively speaking, of course.
But, it’s evident that the Councillor has 12 Division’s ear, and they could use some help in an obviously, concerned Weston community.
And, if you’re wondering, no. I don’t work for or represent the Councillor or TPS’s 12 Division in any way, shape or form.
Just hoping to see a better balance in an area that I still call home, amid extreme finger pointing.
Frankly however, I do appreciate it when I see someone who isn’t afraid of some heavy lifting and a little hard work.
Often, just hard, thankless work.
Could it be as easy as that?
Well, maybe not cause here’s the problem. And, to paraphrase an ancient French philosopher who once uttered in jest:
“.. The problem with the world is that everyone thinks they know the way, or has the answer.”
(Insert sycophantic, uppercrust, powder wigged laughter here.)
Anyway, somehow despite what you or I think of the Councillor’s efforts – as a politician or person – she continues to reach out in this community which includes a very disparate group of beings. And, she serves, unlike you and me.
“Takes a licking, but keeps on ticking”, n’est pas?
Run against her effort & record.
(She’s bound to lose one day.)
So, in the mean time, consider her invitation to join, if safety is top of mind.
Now, back to the topic of Rentals in this working class area that has longgggg had high rise rental accommodations with numerous precedents paving the way for even more demands for affordable housing, not always pleasing to many of us.
They’re here to stay, and more are needed.
So, given that, how to make them better – for the unit residents and in general, the Weston community which is going through it’s own form of gentrification.
Weston is still a pretty good buy – better yet with improved rail transit into the city.
Clearly, neighbourhoods need a relationship with a strong business and development community.
We understand that affordable housing is intended to assist the less than privileged types among us, who we hope are decent folks, and often are.
But sadly, perhaps too often they are sharing space with lawless types who hide out in their midst. (“Community Safety” issue?)
Now, as we know affordable housing is encouraged & later demanded by social activists in our city and community.
And, these activists are backed by other like minded altruists who attend these very kinds of information meetings, too when organized by the Councillor, which includes interested investors who want to see if Weston is worthy of their consideration, and investment dollars.
Fact is, more often than not these are pretty small and poorly attended meetings by the people who actually live in the area.
If we don’t go to meetings, the balance is thrown off.
And then, what we get is this – too much right wing influencing the debate or too much left wing winning the day for their needs.
We perhaps then, get what we earn when we don’t get involved, especially when invited.
And yeah, I don’t always go these meetings either.
(I pick my spots, too. Not good. But, that’s life.)
But, here’s the thing for me when it comes to rentals – I very much believe in something often referred to as “pride in ownership” which is something I don’t think you get from living in a rental space.
And yes, I suppose as a consequence, I don’t much like having my hard earned tax dollars carelessly squandered by politicians, bureaucrats, lobbyists or activists, of any persuasion.
Nevertheless, I fully understand that we sometimes have to spend shared taxation monies to improve societal needs, which hopefully benefits most involved & concerned.
A balance, a yin & yang influenced by those who choose to get involved.
So, like it or not, as it stands Weston has always been a working class neighbourhood which has given the have-nots of the world a place and a chance to start. A chance to improve, grow and move on up.
Many very proud Westonites from my past have moved on up & out.
(But, they always remember where they’re from, somehow in a prideful way.)
Some have grown to know the value of an opportunity to gain some ground. And others, will never know it because perhaps they’ve not had the good fortune of proper mentoring which clearly helps and begins in a family, who shows you the way.
My folks were working class stiffs originally from an Eastern bloc country, who bought their Weston home for $21,000 back in the day.
And, my in laws did so too, for about $5000 less, a few years prior to Mom & Dad’s closing date in the 60s.
They worked hard in the factory jobs available to them and knew the importance of saving, as best they could.
And, even though my folks had a real aversion to any left leaning politics given their life experiences in eastern Europe, they were involved in their workplace labour unions, working hard at obtaining some fairness, a balance in their workplace & community.
However, rhetoric goes only so far and like most, they sought better, too.
For them, apart from their mortgage, they never borrowed or used credit. Dad believed in paying cash for everything. Or would flex and consider a “lay away” plan for furniture & luxury items, a pretty much unheard of approach these days of instant gratification.
Life was relatively modest for us and people like us.
We were never middle class, but I never felt we were poor – just perhaps not as fortunate as others, never really coveting what someone else had in comparison.
I just had an awareness through my folks that if I truly wanted something I’d have to work carefully & hard to achieve it.
I was lucky – I had mentoring types from an early age.
Early in their journey, my mentoring types did have to rent many times before they finally could realize the dream of home ownership, and the pride that goes with ownership.
And so, thanks to them I hope I learned some important lessons well, that I might have shared with our kids, by example.
Also thankfully, don’t know what it means to have a good work ethic, but no where to earn a living the way many folks – young & old – are challenged these days.
Looking back, it did seem easier then, where even if you had no inclination for post secondary scholastics and what might materialize from those grand efforts – you could go off to a CCM, a Moffatts, construction trades or an auto mechanics job at a local dealership of which we had all brands represented in Weston.
It was tough then for working class folks and those who aspired to at least that level. But, probably tougher now.
The common denominator between then & now is that the community of Weston was and is more affordable than many other areas in the city of Toronto.
And, given the need for affordable rental housing everywhere, it’s not likely going to change too soon in the Weston area.
It will always be a growing concern.
Now, how to make it better?
Well, our web host once noted that, it is we the people who are the government, and it has a better chance to work & succeed if we people get involved, when these moments arise like they do in Weston.
Community Safety meeting, anyone?
Thanks for your time.
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.