Violence still haunts Flemingdon

A culture of fear still looms in Flemingdon Park and a lack of communication is hindering efforts to improve safety, a roomful of residents and officials heard at a recent community meeting.

Toronto Community Housing held the July 21 meeting in response to concerns following the recent shooting death of 19-year-old Dianthony Evans in a park at Grenoble Drive.

Housing officials, reps from all three levels of government, community outreach groups and police were present at the meeting — almost outnumbering the residents who attended.

“I’ve got a 13-year-old son who is an amazing kid,” one resident said. “He hasn’t been outside the house since (the shooting). He used to go to the basketball court every day to play with his friends … he’s terrified. He knew these kids.”

The July 13 shooting brings back grim memories of the 2006 beating death of 17-year-old Omar Wellington in Flemingdon Park. Evans was one of four youth convicted in Wellington’s murder. Police say the murders are unrelated.

When Wellington was beaten to death, no one called 911.

The lack of calls for Wellington wasn’t because residents didn’t care, says Marilyn Lawson, a tenant representative for Toronto Community Housing in Flemingdon Park.

“They weren’t ignoring it,” she said. “They were trying to protect their children. They were scared to death because they were afraid
that their kids were next.”

And despite the violent shooting, that insular culture is slowly changing as residents are coming out of their houses and talking with each other, Lawson said.

Residents are also starting to call authorities when they see criminal activity or they get someone else to make the call, she said.

When Evans was killed, Lawson was on the phone with police before the second round of shots was fired, she said.

Another resident at the meeting said she also called 911 when she heard the gunshots, and that she wasn’t going to let the fear of retribution stop her from speaking out against crime in Flemingdon Park.

Residents at the meeting were told violent crime in the area has been decreasing over the past couple of years, an indication that the relationship between residents and police has been steadily improving.

“The police are getting out of their cars and interacting,” Lawson said. “The kids need to be able to go over and shake their hand and say, ‘Hi, how are you doing?’ And that’s happening.”

Nonetheless, residents have ongoing concerns about the area security cameras.

“A seven-year old came up to me and said, ‘Those cameras don’t work and I don’t want to get killed,” said one resident.

TCHC officials said the cameras have been fixed but that they are repeatedly vandalized.

Residents at the meeting also expressed disappointment over the seeming lack of programs and activities for youth in the neighbourhood.

There used to be a lot activities offered in Flemingdon Park during the 1970s and 1980s, residents said.

A representative from Flemingdon Neighourhood Services said they offer free basketball sessions for girls twice a week at Marc Garneau CI but no one has showed up.

Officers also mentioned the Flemingdon Hockey League, which offers free hockey for 64 girls and boys. The league is expanding next year.

Residents said if they knew these programs were available, they would have enrolled their children.

Creating a well-informed community will improve safety, Lawson said, and help change Flemingdon Park’s image as a dangerous neighbourhood.

“This is a good community.”

About this article:

By: Amanda Kwan
Posted: Aug 3 2010 12:15 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto