'City is safer' after gang crackdown: T.O. chief
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair says the "city is safer" after more than 60 alleged gang members of the Driftwood Crips were arrested in a series of early-morning raids in one of the city's most troubled communities.
Nearly 700 police officers from forces across Ontario, including the RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police, assisted in the raid entitled Project Kryptic on Wednesday.
While suspects were rounded up in cities outside Toronto, Blair said the majority of arrests took place in the Jane and Finch community.
Police seized dozens of firearms and drugs with a street value well in excess of $1 million.
Six of the people arrested were either current or former employees at Pearson International Airport as cargo and ramp staff. The largest airport in the country was on high-alert Wednesday after the arrests.
"We're talking about six employees who happened to work at the airport, who were facilitating, assisting, helping the guns and gangs group, the Crips, to commit criminal offences while they were working," Supt. Robert Davis of the RCMP said on Wednesday at Pearson.
The six were arrested off of airport property.
Blair said he believes the arrests have severely damaged the Crips operation.
"The trafficking of illicit drugs is the primary source of income for this criminal enterprise, and the seizure of these drugs and the arrest of those responsible for the importation and trafficking of them we hope will deal a significant blow to the source of misery in so many of our most vulnerable neighbourhoods," Blair said.
"The weapons and the willingness of the alleged participants of this criminal enterprise to use them has forced many of our citizens to silence."
Blair said the arrests were not directly linked to any one incident, but said the offensive was part of the force's ongoing efforts to crack down on gangs and gun activity.
"I believe that our city is safer today as the result of the work that has been done today," he said.
"The dismantling of this criminal organization and the removal of many dangerous offenders from our community will make a difference."
More raids to come
The pre-dawn raids are just the beginning of a crackdown on crime Ontario's attorney general said on Wednesday.
"The answer to gun and gang crime and an increase to organized crime is organized justice,'' Attorney General Michael Bryant said Wednesday.
"This massive operation announced today by Chief Blair that stretches from Niagara to Kingston, involving hundreds of police officers, is both the culmination and the tip of the iceberg of our organized justice strategy.''
Federal Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day commended the efforts of police and Canadian Border Services on Wednesday.
"This seizure is another example of our government's unwavering commitment to tackle crime and keep drugs off our streets," Day said in a statement.
"This should send a message to anyone involved in the illicit trafficking of drugs, weapons and other contraband that our law enforcement agencies will continue to zero-in on those individuals who try to import illegal materials into Canada."
Ontario's Community Safety Minister Monte Kwinter said the operations are having "dramatic results'' in helping to reduce gun violence in the province.
"In 2005 we had 52 gun-related homicides and in 2006 we had 29. That is a dramatic reduction and that is a direct result of the guns and gangs strategy," Kwinter said.
For Toronto Mayor David Miller, the arrests prove the city is committed to reducing gun violence.
"We know the police work works, crime is going down in Toronto and every time one of these arrests happens we see a positive response and result," Miller said from Montreal on Wednesday.
Toronto police conducted one of their largest gang sweeps last year in Rexdale aimed at dismantling the Jamestown Crew. Officers have conducted other mass raids across Toronto recently targeting various gangs.
Wednesday's crackdown, part of an 11-month investigation, comes amid a recent surge of gun-related crimes in the Toronto area.
Jordan Manners, 15, was shot and killed at school last month in the hallway of his North York high school.
Last Saturday, a gunfight broke out in broad daylight in a Rexdale neighbourhood, leaving a 19-year-old man dead and three other people injured.
Some residents were angered by the raids, saying the police had gone too far.
Marcia Campbell was at work when police raided her home early Wednesday morning looking for drugs, guns and phone lists related to the Driftwood Crips.
"I have never seen a gun in my house," Campbell told CTV News as she sifted through clothes and furniture in her ransacked home.
Police arrested two of her sons and had a physical altercation with her boyfriend. This was the third time her house was raided in the past month.
Some residents in the community were pleased with the raids and hope the provincial government will continue to take action on crime.
"Guns are bad news. Unfortunately, they are used to kill people rather than for hunting, so they should be off the streets. Whatever surveillance the government and police have to put in to get rid of them we welcome that," Pastor Evon Nunes told CTV News on Wednesday.
On Monday, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty appointed the province's retiring chief justice to co-chair a new review to examine Toronto's ongoing problem of gun violence.
Roy McMurtry and former Liberal MPP Alvin Curling will head the review, which will look to other cities and countries for guidance on how to reduce gun crime and youth violence.
Blair says shootings are down by 40 per cent this year over last.
Toronto has added hundreds of officers to its force as part of its anti-violence strategy. Residents have also helped police in their investigations, Blair said.
"I am grateful to those who have had the courage to step forward, they are the real heroes of our community," he said.
CTV Toronto's Chris Eby said Wednesday's offensive could be a pre-emptive strike to prevent another "summer of the gun" as was the case in 2005.
That summer, 52 people were killed by criminals using firearms.
With reports from CTV's Chris Eby, Jim Junkin, Paul Bliss, Galit Solomon, MairiAnna Bachynsky and files from the Canadian Press