Nnamdi Ogba: Homicide Squad make two arrests

Mayor John Tory listens on Friday March 23rd as Nnamdi Ogba’s parents plead for help in solving their son’s murder.

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.

Nnamdi Ogba

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.

RBC Bank robber arrested.

The word that the Weston and Lawrence RBC branch had been robbed twice within six days created anxiety in many people. The details of the robberies have been released and it transpires that it wasn’t an armed gang so much as a one-man mini crime wave. On March 2nd, a 30 year-old suspect allegedly saw an opportunity and attempted to grab money from a customer at an ATM. The 62 year-old customer was able to hold on to his or her money and the suspect then doubled down and allegedly went to a teller and threatened to shoot her if she did not hand over money. He allegedly fled with some cash but was not wearing a disguise.

The same person came back again on March 8th allegedly wearing sunglasses and a scarf and instead of going to a teller, made demands of the manager who complied.

The police gave no further details of the alleged suspect except that he was arrested later the same day of the second robbery and was due to appear in court last Friday.

Hats off to the brave people working at RBC in Weston. It’s got to be a horrible experience to be present during a robbery; not knowing the weaponry or state of mind of the robber(s). There are few other civilian jobs where this dangerous potential constantly looms in the background. Thankfully the police acted quickly and this man is off our streets.

One can only speculate what his alleged motivation (let alone history) was but a drug dependency might be one of his demons. Investing in more resources to directly tackle addiction and mental health is seen as more and more important as a prior intervention might have got this man some help and saved people a great deal of anxiety. Now, the courts and prison system will be his social worker, doctor and psychiatrist – at a much higher cost to all of us, and indeed to him. If he is convicted, many doors will close.

Points of interest.

  • Adult correctional services cost the people of Canada over $4.6 billion in 2015/16. We pay around $203 per day to keep someone in a provincial jail and $283 daily in a federal jail.
  • People aged between 25 and 34 are the biggest age group in jails.
  • Canada incarcerates about 115 people for every 100,000 of population; India, an astonishing 33 and the U.S. an equally astonishing 698.

Warm clothing drive in 12 Division

A coat drive in 12 Division, run by the good people in the Police Liaison, the LEF, the TTC, and the TDSB, has given out more than 400 coats to chilly people in York South–Weston—including  100 kids. Now they’re looking for some hats, mitts, and scarves.

If you have any you can donate, bring them by 12 Division, at 200 Trethewey Drive.

Cops should be where they’re needed.

The Toronto Police report optimistically named, ‘The Way Forward‘ is running into flak from police union head Mike McCormack.  One of the suggestions in the report is to deploy officers in low crime areas to parts of the city where criminal behaviour is more prevalent. McCormack claims that after spending time to get to know a community, cops moved to other areas will be strangers. This apparently will negate all the good feelings engendered by community barbecues and the like.

Contrary to his new found love of community policing, McCormack was a fan of ‘carding‘. The practice of profiling, questioning and documenting people based on factors arbitrarily determined by an officer. Incredibly, while carding was abolished this year, data gathered in the past (some of it obtained illegally) has been retained. Carding did little to prevent crime but did much to alienate visible minorities. When I was young, many years ago I was profiled because of my youth, especially when driving. I can only imagine what it’s like to be young and black where profiling is practised.

Here in Weston it would be nice to see a few extra cops occasionally. Despite our fearsome reputation, we’re not a hotbed of crime. Although dealing drugs at 2 a.m. anywhere in the city is going to be bad for your health, the downtown waterfront is a far more dangerous place than Jane and Lawrence in the wee small hours.

The old saying goes that you can catch a lot more flies with honey than vinegar. Back in the 20th Century, police would be visible in neighbourhoods. They talked to people and patrolled where they were needed.

It’s just as well McCormack doesn’t have anything to do with fire services. The same way that it’s a good idea to put fire fighters where the fires are, let’s put cops where they’re needed, not where they’re comfortable.

New police action plan released

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders. (From cbc.ca)

The Way Forward was a catchy title used to describe best practices in Canadian palliative care, fostering success and innovation in Newfoundland and Labrador and as of today, the name of a report from Toronto Police. The report was seen to be a necessary response to a crisis of confidence in the force, the growing cost of policing and the need to adopt more modern policing methods.

It’s interesting that the public has known about the problems with Toronto Police for years. They  have known about the lack of involvement in communities, an overly belligerent response to situations requiring intelligence and finesse and a large body of evidence that police treat certain visible minorities differently. The cost of policing was also an issue that had risen relentlessly in the past few years. When Rob Ford ordered a pay freeze, then Chief Bill Blair just ignored him. Mayor Tory was able to appoint his own candidate as Chief and Mark Saunders has delivered the required report.

In addition to knowing about the problems, the public has known for a long time what the solutions were. Namely that police officers should become more visible, get out of the cruisers, crack down on gangs and gun crime, walk the beat and treat all people with respect. To some extent, there seems to be a willingness in the report to do this.

While the police should have a base in the community, large fortress police stations could be replaced by several storefronts. Nothing in the report suggests that this will change other than closing some stations.

The lucrative after-hours job of paid duty now sees 80% of cops on the Sunshine List. These jobs, such as supervising road works, could be done for a lot less by others. The report tackles this to some extent.

Police forces are notoriously difficult to turn around. Part of the problem is that the qualification to apply for the job is a mere Grade 12 diploma – a requirement unlikely to attract deep thinkers. Another is the overwhelmingly male (>80%) and white (>75%) component to the force. Yet another is the complete lack of psychological profiling for suitability. Nothing in the report suggests that this will change.

Training needs to be beefed up with the emphasis on the safety of the job – very few police officers are killed or injured compared to construction workers for example. In spite of this many officers react in situations where they show fear rather than courage and the consequences can be deadly for the public. There are several mentions of increased training in the report.

Will the new report turn things around? It’s nice to see that there is a set of specific recommendations that are time and performance based so that’s a good thing. The bad thing is that although the recommendations have timelines, many are vague and require more discussion and study. Look for little or no change on these.

Here are the recommendations in the report:

Recommendations 1-8 (Click to enlarge).
Recommendations 9-13 (Click to enlarge).
Recommendations 14-16 (Click to enlarge).
Recommendations 17-21 (Click to enlarge).
Recommendations 23-25 (Click to enlarge).

Let’s hope that real change is coming.

Read the official report summary here and the full report here.

 

Perception, meet reality

There is an perception common to residents of large cities that crime is rampant. Our area has an undeservedly bad reputation for crime. Here in Weston / Mount Dennis, many people react to reports of crime by moving away, staying home more often or avoiding areas concerned.

from legacyproperties.ca
from legacyproperties.ca

We live next to a country that does indeed have high levels of crime. Not only that but our favourite TV shows are largely American and reflect the culture of crime that exists down there. In addition, the old adage, if it bleeds it leads governs many news outlets and so violent crime often receives the bulk of attention by the media. This gives people a perception that crime levels are roughly comparable to those  of our neighbour to the south.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Generally speaking, murder is a good indicator of overall crime levels. It’s a terrible and devastating crime; seemingly unavoidable in large cities. Last year, in Chicago, a city slightly smaller than Toronto, a total of 490 people were murdered. Compare that to the 604 murdered in all of Canada in 2015 and suddenly some perspective comes into play. That same year, 55 people were murdered in Toronto, which for a city of this size, is remarkably a rare and shocking event. Toronto by many measures, is one of the safest cities in North America, yes, even compared to the rest of Canada or for that matter, Ontario it’s safe. Not only that, looking at figures from ten years ago when 79 people were murdered in the city, Toronto is safer than ever.

From immigroup.com
2014 figures. From immigroup.com. Click to enlarge.

Looking at the raw numbers without sensational headlines, it’s possible to see a downward trend although shooting occurrences remain stubbornly high.

Toronto homicides by year.
Toronto homicides by year. From Wikipedia.

Anyone involved in statistics knows that numbers change year over year. Trends establish themselves, anomalies, (better known as blips) can occur too. When police forces and news outlets (as they have this year) proclaim things like “gun homicides are up 200%“, it’s often a short-term blip rather than a long-term trend. It does get peoples’ attention though which is the whole point if you’re trying to maintain a police budget or gather online clicks.

From Business2Community.
From Business2Community.

As the old saying goes, there are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics. Next time alarming crime statistics are presented in the media or by government agencies, be sure to consider the sources and their motivations before being frightened into thinking that we live in a dangerous city or community.

Police want your feedback.

As part of the community consultation process, Toronto Police would like to hear from citizens about changes to policing and the modernizing process. Here is their request:

Have Your Say

Community Consultation poster with meeting datesThe Transformational Task Force was created by Chief of Police Mark Saunders and the Chair of the Police Services Board Andrew Pringle to modernize policing in our City. The Task Force’s Interim Report, released on June 16, 2016, incorporates the views and experiences of a number of community members.

Both Chief Saunders and Chair Pringle have made it clear though, that a wider engagement strategy is needed in order to hear the voices of the residents of Toronto. Your views and experiences are valuable not only to help shape the future of your police service, but also to help create the common ground that is vital to community safety.

Accordingly, we invite your input on the work of the Transformation Task Force, and more broadly, on the future of policing in Toronto.

Based on the Goals set out in the Interim Report, the following questions are offered as a guide for your input:

  1. Where do you feel the Police are needed most?
  2. How can the Police better partner with citizens, community organizations, and others to create a safer community?
  3. What are the complex safety needs currently facing the City of Toronto?

We encourage you to record your comments in a form of a video, and upload it using the form below as .mp4, .m4v, .mov, .mpg or .mpeg file.

Please limit your video to 1 min. (60 sec.) in length, at 720p or 1080p resolution.

Alternatively, you may send us your written comments via email to: thewayforward@torontopolice.on.ca

Thank-you!

 With that in mind and more than a minute’s worth of bitching in me (and having a face for radio) I have sent in the following via email and encourage all readers to send in their own so that the needs of Weston / Mount Dennis can be represented. Readers may feel free to adapt or re-use any of this content.

1. Where do you feel the Police are needed most?

With the people. The current reactive model is inefficient and leads to isolation. There is a need for police to be visible and to mingle with all members of the community. Areas of high crime should be foot-patrolled by pairs of officers (not large groups). Establish storefront locations in the city’s high priority areas such as Weston.
Do we really need dozens of police and their cars at a crime scene? Is everyone there performing a role or is this a police version of rubbernecking? Surely there is a better way than everyone showing up to that one location?

2. How can the Police better partner with citizens, community organizations, and others to create a safer community?

Get out of the cruisers, get off the bikes and stop hanging around in gangs. Be visible and interact with the people – not with each other. Police also need to lose the siege mentality where they feel unappreciated and that everyone opposes them.
Barbecues are one-off events – large public housing complexes should be assigned an officer who will be the first line of contact for non-emergencies.
Stop seeing people as ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys’. Most people are neither.
Hold more and smaller neighbourhood ‘town hall’ meetings. We don’t need the Chief to be there all the time.
Improve those cruddy summer uniforms – they look totally unprofessional.
Police need to be in closer contact with the people so that interactions are not considered unusual.
Most people don’t belong to community organizations – focus on contacting ordinary people rather than pandering to needy affinity groups.
Have regular weapon amnesties so that guns and knives can be taken out of circulation. Offer a reward for weapons that are turned in. The private sector (banks etc.) may wish to throw in some additional rewards.

3. What are the complex safety needs currently facing the City of Toronto?

People are generally very safe in this city. There is a need to emphasize that fact so that people don’t feel they are prisoners in their own homes and neighbourhoods. There is an expectation that police officers will have the courage to step in and protect ordinary citizens when needed. Police officers should understand this and either act accordingly or seek a safer role.
People should never be stopped because of racial profiling. They also need to feel that the police can be trusted to keep the peace and not escalate situations. Every society has people who are mentally ill. Police should be trained to deal with such people so that shooting them isn’t the first option when they use threatening behaviour. De-escalation of conflict situations requires skill, intelligence and sensitivity. Officers should be rigorously trained in conflict de-escalation and resolution.
There is a feeling that police have no time to deal with seemingly minor crimes. Bike and phone thefts for example are not trivial and should be taken seriously. We need creative approaches like bait bikes to send the message that police consider theft to be a serious issue.

 Once again, Weston / Mount Dennis residents, the email address is: thewayforward@torontopolice.on.ca
Make your opinion count.