Community safety issues meeting report.

It’s no secret that poverty and crime often go hand in hand. At the September 12 community meeting organized by several York South-Weston community associations, these items were flagged by the 90 participants as actions that would help increase safety in the community. Actions were summarized under headings which have been placed in italics.

Some of the raw data captured during the meeting. From MDCA. Click to enlarge.

To try to make sense of the raw data generated by participants, I have arbitrarily categorized the actions as Social actions (S), Police actions (P) or both (SP). To skip the raw data and see the summary, scroll to the header ‘Summary’.

Youth susceptible to gang entry:
Financially accessible after-school programs (S)
Provide job opportunities (S)
Mental health support and awareness (S)
Parenting classes and parenting help (S)
Open Weston Lions Arena for ice time (S)
Baseball teams. (S)
High school drop-out rate:
Every child to have a learning development plan used by teachers, parents and community organizations (S)
All youth in conflict with the law to be directed to education programs (S)
Gear education to work and employment. (S)
Homelessness:
Employment program for the homeless (S)
Eliminate requirement that to receive welfare you need an address (S)
Create a strategy to build more housing and improve access to housing. (S)
Gun Violence:
Restorative justice (SP)
Youth Programs (S)
Reducing program wait lists (S)
Tighter gun control (S)
Post-incarceration programs (S)
Hire more support workers (S)
Education about gun violence in schools (S)
More security in Smythe Park (SP)
Animate Smythe Park by holding events and/or adding amenities (S)
Neighbourhood walks (S)
Getting residents more information about gun violence (S)
Break-Ins:
Report to police (SP)
More outdoor lighting (S)
Talk to your neighbours (S)
Pet patrols (S)
CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) (S)
Car Thefts:
Hide valuables (S)
Security cameras (SP)
Walk or get a bike (S)
Better community engagement (S)
Fraud:
Fraud prevention information sessions (SP)
Do not share information (S)
Publicise current scams (SP)
Report fraud to the Police and to companies involved (e.g. bank scams) (P)
Hang up the phone (S)
Speeding:
More Police enforcement especially on Jane, Weston and Eglinton (P)
Police presence on random days and times (P)
30K speed limit on side streets (SP)
Speed bumps (S)
Violent crime:
Review funding, resources and support (S)
Address poverty issues (S)
Artscape programs (S)
Use High School students’ community hours to work with Elementary School students in after-school programs on art, music, sports, mentoring (S)
Neighbourhood change (?)
Police presence (SP)
Street Safety Visibility:
Fix lighting (S)
Secure vacant buildings (S)
More cameras (SP)
Increase reporting of all crime (SP)
Know your neighbours (S)
Walk your community (S)
Garbage removal (S)
Accuracy of What is Happening in Community:
Attend community meetings (S)
Read print and email newsletters (S)
Define problem accurately (S)
Ask questions (S)
Make it easier to access data (S)
Pedestrian safety:
Education from school age to seniors (S)
Reduce traffic speed limits (S)
Longer crossing times (S)
More speed enforcement (P)
Traffic calming measures (S)
Bike lanes (S)
Sidewalks for pedestrians (S)
Remove barriers on sidewalks (S)
Lighting:
Lighting audits in our community (S)
Update lighting infrastructure (S)
More solar panels (S)
Drugs:
Stay vigilant in regard to surroundings (S)
Report suspicious activity (SP)
Increase police presence (P)
Creation of a task force (TAVIS?)(P)
Install cameras (SP)
Sex assaults:
Education and training on consent and prevention of assaults (S)
Focused community engagement in schools and faith groups (S)
Police presence (P)
Lack of community police presence:
Advertise online reporting of minor crime (SP)
Report all incidents (P)
More bicycle officers (P)
Attend CPLC meetings (SP)
Lack of evidence of successful youth programs: (S)
Talk to levels of government about assessing community supports (S)
Market local resources to youth (S)
Dispensary equals crime?:
Court has to make it a punishable crime (P)
Community consultations (S)
Additional issues of concern that the meeting did not have time to deal with included:
irresponsible driving (at red lights, crosswalks, stop signs) (P)
cycling on sidewalks (P)
walking while texting on cellphones (P)
jay walking (P)

Summary:

Here is my tally of the types of measures recommended during the meeting.

  • Social actions:  62
  • Police actions: 14
  • Social and Police actions: 14

69% of the recommendations were of a preventative nature, 16% dealt with enforcement while 16% were a combination of the two. One would hope that  the political response to this excellent community effort would not distort the message from the community. In other words, the recommendations suggest most of the efforts directed to reducing crime should be go to addressing the roots of poverty and crime rather simply by adding more police officers.

Click to enlarge. From metrocosm.com

The United States has greatly increased its spending on prisons compared to education and community support. It’s clear that this approach doesn’t work. Let’s not make the same mistake here.

Incidentally, Premier Ford has said that he wants to bring back TAVIS (Toronto Anti Violence Intervention Strategy). Let’s hope he doesn’t. He’s already on record as opposing the January 1, 2019 minimum increase from $14 to $15 so it’s clear he’s not very good at cause and effect.

Update: this article was amended to correct the impression that the meeting was held under the auspices of only one (but awesome) community association.

Man wanted for attempted murder

Toronto Police are asking for the public’s help finding a man wanted for a Weston-area attempted murder.

Barrington Brooks, 51, is alleged to have entered a hair salon near Jane and Lawrence on January 20. He is alleged to have then stabbed a man several times. The victim tried to escape the attack, and was saved by the intervention of other patrons. Brooks is then said to have run south in an alleyway just off Jane.

Brooks is 5’10″ with a medium build.

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.

HRRH releases maniac, forgets to tell cops

The Humber River Regional Hospital at Church and Jane is not known for its acumen, but this may set a new record for mush-headed moronicity. The hospital forgot to tell the cops that they were releasing an honest-to-god maniac whom the police had just brought in for assaulting one of their own.

Courtney Carter spat infected blood at an officer, tried to grab the officer’s gun, threatened his neighbours with a knife, and was charged with assault, threatening death, assaulting a police officer, and disarming a police officer. He was brought to the Church Street campus of the HRRH sometime after midnight, according to The Star.

The hospital released him, presumably with a brown bag full of cookies and a hug, without notifying the cops—even though he was, obviously, under arrest.

Happily, Carter is not from the Weston area; he was arrested near Black Creek Drive and Weston Road. The police describe him, in their neutral tones, as “extremely dangerous”. He is 5′ 8″, 141 pounds, with many tattoos and a frizzy afro. He should not, obviously, be approached.

courtney_carter.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterbox

More details about murdered boy

Police have released the name of the boy murdered in Weston last weekend. He was *****, 16, from Etobicoke.

*****’s Facebook page is both frightening and sad. The background is hands spelling out “Crips” over a blue bandana, the colours of the gang. ***** also posted a picture of himself throwing a gang sign. One of his friends commented on the pictures a year ago, saying “your tryna die fam”. Another said “You trying to kill your self your fucked”. *****’s responses are proud but insensible: “its a crip ting” and “fly crippinggg”.

A Crips gang does—at least according to the internet—exist in the Scarlett Road area of Etobicoke where ***** lived.

Despite the gang posturing, ***** looks small in the pictures. He had just turned 15 when he posted them, and he was only 16 when he died. He wears his pants low on his bum and can barely grow a moustache

***** may have been killed as part of a gang dispute. Six other young men in Toronto have been killed in Toronto this year.

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There is now a publication ban on the victim’s name. I have removed it and some of the pictures.

Police arrest man for firearms theft

Toronto Police have arrested the man who stole two rifles from a home on Rosemount Avenue last month. The stolen rifles were also recovered. Huzzah!

Daniel Oliveira, 29, of Innisfil, has been charged with 15 offenses, and they are doozies, including break and enter, unauthorized possession of a firearm, possession of a firearm obtained by a criminal offense, and failure to abide by his probation.

His mother, perhaps, will miss him.