Pubdate: Fri, 21 Oct 2005
Source: Bloor West Villager (CN ON)
Copyright: 2005 Bloor West Villager
Author: Lisa Rainford


Although the number of drug charges laid in Toronto is down 14 per 
cent since last year residents in the Perth and Symington avenues 
area say they are still plagued by the problem of cocaine users.

Only a small number of community members turned out to a town hall 
meeting hosted by 11 Division police officers Tuesday night at Bishop 
Marrocco/Thomas Merton Catholic Secondary School, but they came with 
big complaints.

Homeowner James Vail said he is at his wit's end with the drug 
problem and is ready to move out of the neighbourhood because he is 
so frustrated by the lack of police response.

He remained unimpressed when Staff Sgt. Jamal Khan of the Community 
Response Unit told him that he was aware of the issues and that 
several arrests have been made.

"As a result of the safety audit conducted in July, addresses were 
checked and arrests were made," said Khan.

One of Vail's neighbours, who also attended the meeting, said she has 
noticed an improvement since the summer, but the problems still persist.

"I still find crack pipes on my property," she told police. "There's 
been a huge amount of car break-ins, one on my property."

Unit Commander Brody Smollet says one of the main problems in his 
division is theft - both breaking and entering and car burglaries - 
and that drugs fuel a great deal of this crime activity.

"One of the biggest offences in our division is break and enters 
because it is an area primarily of residential dwellings," he said. 
"Fortunately, this year our break and enter numbers are down from 
2004 about 25 per cent."

Gun violence is very prevalent in the news lately and it concerns all 
police officers, Smollet said.

"We don't have the same issues as Scarborough, but they are here," he 
said. "We've seized 55 weapons - firearms - so far this year. This is 
not a lot compared to the rest of the city."

So far this year, three hate crimes have been committed within the 
division, one occurring earlier this week that started out on the 
subway and ended up in the division, Smollet said.

One resident asked why cameras couldn't be installed on streets.

"Like in England," she said. "Police can't be everywhere. This way 
you have a picture of these individuals."

Close circuit TV is being debated in Canada, said Smollet, but the 
issue of privacy is a concern as is the cost of installing the 
cameras and hiring people to monitor them. They are out there already 
in banks, stores and ATMs.

"In England it seems to be working on the surface. I don't know if 
we're there yet," he said.

Representatives from the Bloor by the Park Business Improvement Area 
voiced their concerns for the growing graffiti problem. They said 
they were afraid that with graffiti comes gang activity.

"Ninety-nine per cent of it has nothing to do with gangs. It is 
individuals. They want to be noticed in their own society," Smollet said.

11 Division has an officer in charge of helping with graffiti removal, he said.

Hilary Bell, a spokesperson for the Dundas West Residents' 
Association, said an issue that arises among the residential group is 
speeding on Keele Street and Dundas Street West. Traffic Sgt. Inkerie 
McCormack said officers patrol Keele between Bloor Street West and 
Dundas Street three to four times a week, in part because there are 
school zones in those areas.

"We do try to get out during rush hours and when kids get out of 
school," she said.