Crime wave targets teens, residents told

Packed meeting in Leaside seeks answers from cops

Police and concerned residents met in a packed room at the Leaside Memorial Gardens Arena Dec. 2 to discuss persistent street crime plaguing the community in recent months.

Hosted by the Leaside Property Owners Association, the meeting was attended by over 100 residents who voiced concerns about recent muggings, auto thefts, and other property crime. Many residents were particularly concerned about the street robberies involving youth, as some incidents involved weapons.

Police say the robberies are not the work of organized criminals.

“The victims are teenagers and there are eight of them, and there are usually two or three suspects,” Constable Wayne Jackson told the crowd. “They usually take place after school, on school property.

“There were a couple of incidents where a handgun was used, also a knife and some have been verbal commands.”

Police say the bulk of the street robberies were reported between Sept. 20 and Nov. 27.

The actual number of robberies is likely higher, police say, as some students have refused to report the incidents, or waited hours afterwards to contact police.

“Our reports indicate some students have not come forward for fear of retaliation, said Sergeant Matt Mungal. “When students hesitate to call us, gaps appear and it makes it harder to find the suspects.”

Police assured residents the rate of crime in the neighbourhood has dropped by 14 percent since 2007.

But that didn’t quell the fears of some residents, who expressed displeasure with the way the police have handled the situation.

Jackson said police have allocated additional resources to deal with the situation by adding uniformed and plainclothes officers to neighbourhood patrols.

Standing outside the Hanna Road high school on Dec. 7, Leaside students also expressed fear regarding the spike in crime.

Grade 12 student Sam Hildebrand said he thinks much of the illegal activity is taking place on the weekends. Though he’s never been directly involved in a mugging, Hildebrand said he knows of one person who was recently mugged. Other students said they were fearful of going out alone at night, and had been approached about drugs.

According to police, progress is being made.

Officers arrested two suspects in relation to the crimes in the days leading up to the meeting, including a 17-year-old male. The youth is described as a non-Leaside resident who is charged with five counts of robbery, possessing weapons dangerous to public peace, and possession of a prohibited weapon. Police describe him as the prime suspect in the street robberies.

A 54-year-old man was also arrested by police while lingering in driveways with a DVD player in his possession. Police describe him as a vagrant with no ties to the community. He is charged with prowl by night, resisting arrest, and possession of burglary tools.

Reporting incidents is the only way for police to get a clear picture of what is happening in the community, said 53 Division Staff Sergeant Peter Henry, days after the meeting.

“Crime is a partnership, it is not just the duty of the paid police,” he said. “Policing is the responsibility of the community, any time they see something suspicious they should contact us.

Jackson echoed that sentiment at the meeting:

“Be our eyes and ears, youth included. The bulk of our arrests come from community cooperation and emergency calls.”

Police are asking concerned residents to register with the TPSlinks, automated notification service to receive current information on crimes in their community.

­– With Files from Francis Crescia

About this article:

By: Mike Constable
Posted: Dec 10 2009 4:17 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto