Muggings? – You be the judge.

On May 7th in the House of Commons, MP Mike Sullivan, promoting his private member’s Bill C-60, referred to ‘muggings’ that are taking place in the area around Chaminade College. he stated, “Mr. Speaker, there were four muggings of students for their phones, from one school, in my riding last week”.

Here are the actual details:

1. Thursday April 18 @ 3:pm, Queens and Jane; three individuals tried to take a gold chain and cell phone from a grade 11 student. Chaminade College made a police report the next day as the student would only provide an oral report. An accompanying student was reluctant to make a report.

2. Friday April 26 @ 3pm, Laneway leading from Queens to Maple Leaf; three individuals asked students for their phones but the students said they didn’t have any; the individuals walked away empty handed.

3. Friday April 26 @ 3:15pm, on Maple Leaf; three individuals took a cell phone and house keys from each of two Grade 10 students.

4. Monday April 29 @ 4:20, Culford near Gracefield; three individuals demanded valuables from a Grade 10 student who was not in uniform (after sports practice). The student handed them his wallet and the individuals removed some TTC tickets and fled.

5. Monday May 13 @ 4:10pm, Venice and Queens; three individuals demanded valuables from a Grade 9 student with vague threats of repercussions for non-compliance. The student handed over his phone but it was returned to him when he asked for it back.

Map adapted from Google Maps.
Map adapted from Google Maps.

Putting this all together it seems that although these incidents are serious, they do not constitute a crime wave by any stretch of the imagination and don’t really fit the definition of mugging. In incident 5, a phone was actually returned by the alleged thieves to the owner – hardly the actions of muggers or hardened criminals.

Who are these alleged ‘muggers’? It is likely that the same three bad actors are responsible for all these incidents. According to witnesses, they are between 16-18 years old, probably students themselves and (based on the timing of the incidents) travel eastward on their way home. They likely attend school on the west side of Jane.

What can be done? According to Vice-Principal Teresa Santoro in emails to staff, 12 Division police have increased their presence by car, bike, horseback along with undercover officers at lunch and after school. Chaminade College has issued directives to students to travel in groups, keep cell phones out of sight and avoid hot spots where robberies have occurred.

These are sensible precautions and while it is important that these three thugs in training are caught and dealt with before their crimes escalate, we should not elevate them to such figures of fear that students are afraid to report and testify against them. It is also more than likely that some students at Chaminade know exactly who these three characters are. That might be a more fruitful line of investigation.

As for Mr. Sullivan, he should be careful not to paint York South-Weston as a more dangerous place than it is. Even though his bill is commendable, the end doesn’t justify the means.

Sullivan to CRTC – Take action now.

L to R, Staff Sergeant Daryle Gerry, MP Mike Sullivan, Chaminade College Students Alex Escobar and Alexander Colle.

Member of Parliament Mike Sullivan is fed up with phone thefts in his riding and held a press conference today outside Chaminade College School whose students have been particularly targeted. Eleven have been robbed of their phones on the way to or from school since September 2011. Part of the problem says Sullivan is that students are easily identified by their uniforms and so might be considered to be relatively well off.

Sullivan would like to initiate a private member’s bill but says that this involves waiting to be recognized by the Speaker in the House of Commons. “My motion might be presented late next year if my turn comes up,” he said. Instead Sullivan hopes that raising the matter and applying pressure in the form of a petition will cause the CRTC to act before then.

“Under Section 24 of the Broadcast act, the CRTC can order phone companies to refuse to register stolen phones and work together to share information on a stolen phone database,” says Sullivan. He addresses privacy issues, by saying that only the serial number of a stolen phone needs to be listed. Sullivan claims this will save money as large amounts of police time are taken up by phone thefts.

85% of street crime in 12 Division involves phone theft according to Toronto Police Staff Sergeant Daryle Garry and it ties up a large amount of police resources. Garry was accompanied by officer Cam Forrest. “We have blanketed the area with uniform and plain-clothes officers, but it’s hard to catch thieves in the act,” he says. Thieves are often brazen as stolen phones can be re-registered and so are easily ‘fenced’. Garry cited one case of a man involved in a car accident on Trethewey who  began phoning for assistance. A passer-by offered to use the man’s phone to call for help but ran off with it when it was handed to him.

Chaminade student Alexander Colle says that the thefts have had a large negative effect upon students. This was echoed by fellow student Alex Escobar who plans to raise the matter with the Catholic Students’ Association and circulate Sullivan’s petition.

Sullivan will be out this summer promoting the database and will have the support of Chaminade College students in collecting as many signatures as possible before the opening of Parliament in the fall. You can get a copy of the petition online here.