Re: Toronto police sweep results in nearly 300 drug, prostitution arrests
Police praise residents for prompting drug sweep
But some concerned the quiet on troubled downtown streets will be short-lived
Apr 02, 2008 04:30 AM
In the past few weeks, Cameron Atkison's car has been broken into twice. He reported the incident to police the first time, but didn't even bother after that.
"What's the point?" said Atkison, 52, who has lived in the troubled Shuter and Parliament Sts. neighbourhood for the past 13 years. "It happens every few months here, so I have kind of just accepted it."
But other residents in the Church-Seaton neighbourhood decided to take another shot at changing the neighbourhood, well-known for its prostitutes and drug dealers. Community members took their complaints to 51 Division Community Police Liaison Committee and decided to work with Toronto police on the problem.
Over a six-week period starting in mid-February, police launched a two-pronged plan – "Project Roundup" and an undercover component dubbed "Project Revival" – aimed at cleansing the area of drugs, prostitution and reoffenders.
"When the community came to 51 Division ... it wasn't just about prostitution or drugs, it was a project aimed at improving the quality of life of people in this area," said Det. Sgt. Howie Page.
Police arrested a total of 287 people, including 188 on outstanding criminal warrants and 96 with drug trafficking and prostitution offences. Three others were charged after a raid netted $150,000 worth of crack cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy. Forty of the 96 arrested had no fixed address, and 24 didn't live in the area. Nine lived outside of the city of Toronto.
The arrests took place in an area bounded by Gerrard St. E., Queen St. E., Church and Parliament Sts., and was a 24-7 operation, said Page.
"We were out there at 3 a.m., or at 7 in the morning. We were trying to throw them (the dealers) off, so they had no comfort level," he said.
While the police were at the forefront, and on the streets, most of the tips came from those in the community, said Page.
"People were calling in on a daily and nightly basis, giving us information as to where to go," he said.
Atkison was at a Community Police Liaison Committee meeting Monday night where police shared the results of the six-week blitz with concerned residents. While he is proud of their hard work, he is doubtful that this will change anything in the long run.
"It might be a couple of weeks, or we might be lucky and it will be a couple of months," said Atkison. "The summer season usually brings out more dealers and people."
But Page said the police are now in the maintenance phase and will remain out on the streets throughout the summer.
The short reprieve on street corners as a result of the sweep hasn't gone unnoticed by residents.
"It's gotten a lot quieter in the past few weeks," said Atkison, president of the Cabbagetown South Association. He hopes it will last, not only to draw more "good, decent hard-working" people to the area, but also retain those who have put up with the daunting streets for years.
"I don't regret moving here," he said. "But there are days when I think I'd like to move."