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Shootings shock community: Police say recent violence mostly targeted

November 23rd, 2010 · No Comments

A day after the Oct. 25 Toronto election, Councillor-elect Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) attended this community meeting. Perry King/Gleaner News.

By Perry King

Investigations on three of four recent shooting incidents in the Annex area are still open, according to updates from 14 Division.

At a meeting on Oct. 26, over 50 people packed into the Bickford Centre cafeteria (777 Bloor St. W.) to hear Inspector David Vickers and Detective Sergeant Brian Kelly announce that investigations for shootings on Sept. 26, Sept. 30, Oct. 8, and Oct. 20, are progressing but police still need help with information.

The meeting was organized by the Friends of Christie Pits Park (FCPP) and the now renamed Christie Pits Residents’ Association—formerly the Christie-Ossington Residents Association (CORA)—in response to growing resident concerns.

Business owners, local residents, and Councillor-elect Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) were in attendance.

Two of the higher profile shooting incidents—at Central Technical School (725 Bathurst St.) on Sept. 30, and Toronto Brazilian Jiu Jitsu mixed martial arts gym (813 Bloor St. W.) Oct. 20—were targeted attacks. Both incidents resulted in a short-term lockdowns of local schools.

At Toronto BJJ, a suspect shot at three men multiple times in the Banjara restaurant (796 Bloor St. W.) parking lot. The suspect, who fled south on Montrose Avenue, has yet to be caught.

“It’s important for you to know that the victims of the gun violence, almost 100 per cent of them, are people who live lifestyles that are consistent with violence. I’m talking drug dealing, gang violence, putting themselves in positions, relationships, and conflicts that cause these types of gun violence incidents to occur,” said Vickers. “I’m happy to say that citizens are not being gunned down on the street.”

Josh Rapport, director of Toronto BJJ, attended the meeting to clarify that the shootings were not connected to his business.

“A quick Google, and a little bit of intelligence told me he was a known to police in Vancouver,” he said. “A little rumour mill around the gym, after the fact, was that this was his third time being a victim of gunfire and that his other buddy who also came down from B.C., and likes to train in martial arts, lost his wife to a similar shooting.”

Rapport cancelled two memberships as a result of the incident and the Vancouver man is banned from the gym. He assured those in attendance that his business is not involved in these types of activities.

The other two cases are still being investigated.

On Sept. 26, a tourist was shot in the midst of a robbery during a party at Pero (812 Bloor St. W.), but survived. Kelly said that everyone at the business is cooperating with the investigation.

Kelly is having less cooperation with an Oct. 8 shooting at an apartment building at Melville Avenue and Shaw Street, north of Christie Pits.

“I can’t speak to that a whole lot. There has not been an arrest, and that investigation is continuing and progressing,” he said.

Vickers adds, “What can you do? We need your help. You folks are the eyes and ears of the community. We need you to communicate with us, to do it by calling us, telling us directly,” he said.

“Part of our biggest challenge is getting people to share info, to become witnesses. I understand that there are parts of being a witness that are uncomfortable. I understand that, but it should not prevent you from providing us with info, so we can move forward.”

The meeting was devoted to putting 14 Division crime in perspective, discussing community initiatives, and other strategies that may deter criminal behaviour.

Vickers confirmed that overall crime in the division is down 30 per cent compared to 2006. Shooting deaths have also decreased 15 to 12 per cent, compared to numbers in 2002 and 2003.

Despite this, 14 Division has the fifth highest crime rate out of 17 divisions in the city, with 18 shooting incidents occurring this year alone.

Many parents, including FCPP chair Monica Gupta, wanted clarity on what lockdown policy was for schools.

One parent, Alice, commented that while high schools were locked down during the Central Tech situation, elementary schools—including the school her children attend—went about their business. “I trust the police to know where and who to lock down but it felt a bit odd that high schools were locked down and elementary [students] were playing outside,” she said.

Another parent was concerned that the lockdown protocol was not applied consistently to Catholic schools.

While he could not specifically comment on those lockdown decisions, Vickers assured the parents that the police were doing their best to keep everyone safe with the information they had.

Vickers recommended the TPS Links program, which is a community automated notification system that sends texts and phone calls to inform of emergencies, road closures, and amber alerts. Gupta mentioned the LOFT graffiti art program, street beautification projects, and parks programs that the local residents associations can undertake to prevent crime.

The Bloorcourt BIA, which covers Dufferin Street to Montrose Avenue, was criticized for being weak, with only a few participating businesses. Joe Perketa, the BIA’s vice chair, said that the budget is small because the area between Ossington and Montrose is “nearly abandoned.”

He said that because landlords are happy to collect the apartment rent and apply for exemption from full business taxes while the storefronts lie vacant, many landlords do not contribute to the BIA budget.

Layton said he would look into reining in bad landlords and ways to help grow the BIA.

Perketa also discussed long-term plans for a streetscape improvement program.

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