Suspects charged after raid appear in T.O. court
Published Thursday, June 14, 2007 7:00PM EDT
More than 80 people made appearances at the Finch Avenue courts Thursday after being arrested in the city's most recent crackdown on guns and gangs.
Tempers flared as people tried to pack the overflowing courtroom in the morning. Extra police officers were brought in to calm the situation.
More than 200 people, including lawyers, police and family members tried to squeeze into the room that was meant to seat about 40, CTV's Chris Eby reported.
Those left outside were upset, and said some of the arrested weren't involved in the Driftwood Crips, the gang the raid targeted, that operates in the Jane and Finch Streets area in North York.
People complained that the police honed in on a predominately black neighbourhood.
"They do target black people because we live in the ghetto--we live at Jane and Finch. Come on," said one woman.
Yvonne Foster blamed the arrest of her 20-year-old son, who she said was charged with gangsterism, on the area.
"I'm sure if I grew my kids up in Richmond Hill from the start, I wouldn't be in this situation--if I had money, and grew my kids in a well-off neighbourhood," Foster said.
Toronto police arrested 95 suspects on Wednesday and laid more than 700 criminal charges after executing 88 search warrants in a massive raid in the Jane and Finch Streets area.
Staff Insp. Joe Tomei said police are still searching for another nine alleged members of the gang.
Of those arrested, 69 are men, 21 are women and five are teenagers, Tomei told reporters.
The suspects face a series of charges related to organized crime and firearms and drug trafficking.
A series of raids netted more than 60 alleged gang members. Tomei said police executed more search warrants throughout the day, bringing the total number of suspects to 95.
Some 700 officers from forces across Ontario were involved in the raids, which led to the seizure of 32 firearms, including 24 handguns, four sawed-off shotguns and 900 rounds of ammunition.
Tomei said "it's a good day for police'' any time a gun is removed from the streets.
In total, police executed 88 search warrants at homes and inside vehicles and lockers.
Tomei said the latest gang sweep netted more than $1 million of illegal drugs, including 30 kilograms of cocaine, 20 kilograms of marijuana and nine kilograms of hash oil. Hundreds of thousands of dollars was also seized.
Police Chief Bill Blair says the seizure of drugs and guns should deal a "significant blow" to the Crips operation.
The offensive followed an intense 11-month investigation, said Blair, who declared the city "is safer" now.
Six current and former Pearson International Airport employees were among those apprehended in Project Kryptic.
The suspects allegedly helped move guns in from the United States, the RCMP announced.
Crips 'terrorized' community
One 25-year veteran Toronto officer told CTV's Jim Junkin the Driftwood Crips are the most dangerous street gang he's ever seen in the city.
Author and gang expert Michael Chettleburgh said the Crips terrorized residents with guns and threats of violence.
"I think Jane-Finch is temporarily safer now. I certainly think the community is breathing a sigh of relief," Chettleburgh told CTV's Tim Weber.
"However, until we begin to deal with the underlying conditions that gave rose for young people across that area to get involved with gangs many years ago ... we will continue to see the fuel for street gangs to form in that community."
Chettleburgh predicts this summer will be a violent one, but not as deadly as in 2005, the so-called "summer of the gun," where firearms-related homicides surged.
"I think the drug trade is very robust, the street prices of certain drugs is way out of whack, which speaks to the issue of more and more gangs getting active, bringing new sources of private drugs in the market," he said.
"When that happens, you find the violence that we're increasingly seeing across the area, as well as other cities in North America."
Community mentorship program
Church leaders applauded Wednesday's arrests and gathered afterwards to discuss ways to prevent criminal activity in their neighbourhoods.
On Thursday the group announced a community mentorship program aimed at helping residents "going in the wrong direction."
"There is a great need, especially in this community," Meredith told CTV's Christine Bentley.
"We have a list of 400 kids on a waiting list right across the GTA. We need to address that need so those kids don't end up dropping out of school or getting involved in illegal activities."
The program, made up of volunteers, is both a counselling and intervention initiative for all members of the community, not just youth, Meredith added.
With reports from CTV's Jim Junkin, Chris Eby, Austin Delaney and Paul Bliss