Traffic issues and persistent residential break-ins were at the top of the agenda at a recent town hall meeting with midtown’s 53 Division held at Yorkville’s Pilot Tavern in late November.
Break-ins and robberies were the only crime on the rise in the division, which polices an area bounded by Lawrence Avenue, the Don River, Bloor Street and Spadina Road.
“It’s not just here, this is a trend across the city,” said Detective Dan Nealon, adding it was common with the holidays approaching. He added most cases weren’t connected.
Yet neighbourhoods within 53 Division boast the largest high-income population in Canada, making the area a prime target.
Therefore, as a precaution, residents were offered tips to avoid break-ins.
Otherwise, the division’s neighbourhoods experienced a 16 percent drop in overall crime rate from 2009, the greatest decrease among all of Toronto’s 17 police divisions.
Residents who attended the town hall highlighted traffic and road safety as their number one concern.
Sergeant Dale Carter, head of traffic response, said arterial roads running north-to-south through the division posed the biggest challenges.
Yonge Street, Mt. Pleasant Road, and Avenue Road each encounter roughly 35,000 commuters daily, and several citizens shared stories of dangerous drivers scaring pedestrians.
“I walk to work every morning, and I’ve had some close calls at stoplights,” said Dianne Craig, who lives in a nearby condo.
“The main issue that I raised was with the cellphones. I think too many people aren’t paying attention to where they’re going.”
Many local seniors also commented on the excessive speeds and lack of respect of drivers.
In response, Carter outlined how increased enforcement throughout the year has reduced collision numbers. He also announced plans for a cellphone ban police blitz due to take place across the city in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, councillors-elect Josh Matlow (Ward 22) and Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27) were attendance, and offered their support for two more initiatives.
Wong-Tam said she fully supported a neighbourhood officers plan that began earlier this year, where teams of eight constables are assigned permanent beats in familiar communities.
Matlow applauded the notion of using more school resource officers, police dedicated to particular high schools.
“The SRO program helps to break down stereotypes held by both youth and police about each other, and it helps bridge the gap between the officers who the youth may not trust, and the youth who the police often don’t fully understand,” he said.
Staff Sergeant Peter Henry, head of the division’s community response unit, said partnerships with local stakeholders, including businesses, and community groups has resulted in lower crime rates, “safer communities and an overall better quality of life.”
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