Police arrest 125 in GTA-wide crackdown
Police say large-scale, co-ordinated early-morning raids involving aimed at two east-end criminal gangs have taken criminals, guns and drugs off the street.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair told a news conference on Wednesday that Project Fusion began in the summer of 2008 with an organized crime threat assessment.
"It identified the criminal organizations that posed the greatest threat to our community and our city,' he said. "That threat assessment recognized that the violence perpetuated by criminal street gangs continues to be a concern to all our neighbourhoods and communities, not only in Toronto but across the GTA."
The investigation identified a Durham business as a significant distribution point for guns and drugs, so Toronto partnered up with the Durham Regional Police, he said.
Other law enforcement agencies also became involved.
At 5 a.m., the investigation culminated with raids carried out by more than 1,000 police officers from police services across the province brandishing 161 search warrants (100 for homes, 61 for vehicles). At least 125 people have been arrested, but only 46 remain in custody, he said.
Most of the raids took place in east-end Toronto, around Markham Road and Eglinton Avenue. The raids began at around 5 a.m. and were led by Toronto police's Guns and Gangs Task Force.
Two gangs in particular were targeted: The MNE and the 400 Crew, Blair said.
MNE is an acronym for Markham Road and Eglinton Avenue East, while 400 stands for 400 McCowan Rd., he said.
"Their criminal influence extends well beyond that neighbourhood and into the rest of the city of Toronto and Durham region," he alleged.
Blair alleged the gangs are involved in trafficking guns and drugs, with the investigation identifying 46 members of the two gangs.
"Most significantly, Project Fusion focused on the persons and organizations responsible for the supply of drugs and firearms not only in this part of the city, but throughout the GTA," he said, alleging those suspects are part of a "more sophisticated criminal enterprise" supplying other criminals.
Blair said they will only seek to hold the most violent and dangerous offenders without bail. Those charged with lesser offences will get quick bail, he said.
Here is where the search warrants on homes were executed:
- Toronto - 78
- Durham Region - 12
- Peel Region - 5
- York Region - 5
Police seized 40 firearms in the raids:
- 34 handguns,
- two AK-47 assault rifles
- a Cobra 11 machine pistol
- two rifles
- a sawed-off shotgun
- a Taser
- 759 rounds of ammunition
- four bulletproof vests
They also seized the following:
- 42.75 pounds of cocaine, with a street value of $1,940,000
- 64.7 pounds of marijuana with a street value of $588,000
- 30,000 tabs of ecstasy with a street value of $750,000
- 41 grams of Oxycotin, with a street value of $1,700
- 344 grams of crack cocaine, with a street value of $34,400
- $431,340 cash,
- 12 motor vehicles.
Here are some of the charges that have been laid:
- instructing commission of an Offence for criminal organization
- commit criminal Offence in association with a criminal organization
- participate in activities of criminal organization (trafficking drugs)
- participate in activities of criminal organization (trafficking firearms)
- attempted murder
- trafficking in firearms
- conspiracy to traffic in firearms
- possession of prohibited firearm with ammunition
- possession of prohibited firearm
- possession of prohibited weapon
- conspiracy to traffic in illegal drugs
- conspiracy to commit robbery
- possession of proceeds of crime
The raids got noticed in the neighbourhoods.
"There was lots of screaming and yelling," said one young man who lives in the area of one of the raids. "We were scared."
Other local residents said they are now worried about how safe their neighbourhoods are.
"I've lived in this area my whole life and I always thought it was safe but since these drug raids, I don't know anymore," said one man.
With a report by CTV Toronto's Zuraidah Alman