Tracknum: .
Pubdate: Mon, 12 April 1999
Source: Toronto Star (Canada)
Copyright: 1999, The Toronto Star
Page: A15
Author: Roger Davies, Carrollton, Texas
Note: The article this PUB LTE is in response to is at:


Re the March 22 article, Toronto a 'ripe market' for gangs. As an
American who has visited your fantastic city twice, I would consider
any policy that makes Toronto's streets any less safe or inviting to
be a terrible mistake and tragedy.

In expIaining, I may introduce some mental images that perhaps not all
of your readership would care to hear as being impressions that others
get of you city, but I would like to point out that Toronto has much
lower incidences of crime than a great many major American cities.

I am a Texas native, but I had the good fortune to marry an Ontario
native, who has introduced me to the beauty of Toronto and its people.

As a Southerner, I am used to stories of the subways of New York and
other cities, where the subways are dirty and unsafe. Also, on the
streets of any major city's downtown district in America, I feel at
least very cautious, if not paranoid, about my safety and that of my

On the streets and the subways of Toronto, I felt in no way unsafe. My
one occasion speaking with a Toronto police officer was only a
surprise in that he did not automatically give a suspicious glare in
response to a question for directions -- as many Texas cops do -- but
rather presented a helpful and reassuring attitude.

Now, for the perhaps unpleasant mental imagery. On my first visit in
March, 1996, we were drinking coffee at a cafe in Toronto, when a
young man came in, put in an order and then produced a bag of
marijuana, which he proceeded to break up at the counter.

I expected a major row, as the cafe was full of people and a police
officer was visible through the front window, but he just went about
his business, put the bag away, and started drinking his coffee.

On New Year's Eve, 1997, we passed several groups of people either
openly smoking non-tobacco substances or with the smell of marijuana
following them. Both were overlooked by the police on the streets at
the time; at least, those we could see.

My point is this: Toronto is safe, and Toronto is at least outwardly
permissive toward softer drugs, at least to the point of not
attempting to bust the many people openly partaking of it. I am of the
opinion that the two are not unrelated.

Consider this also: A large percentage of the income of financially
successfuI gangs in America comes, invariably, from the illegal drug
trade. If it becomes more important that this trade be kept behind
closed doors then you likely will see the rise in gang activity your
city most fears.

Your country's drug policy comes close to being truly sane; please do
not jinx that by attempting the same measures that my own country
continues to implement, without any success in achieving their stated

Roger Davies
Carrollton, Texas