Project Patton yields largest single seizure of crime guns in Toronto police history
Chris Fox, CTV News Toronto
Published Friday, June 22, 2018 6:37AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, June 22, 2018 7:02PM EDT
Police say that a nine-month long investigation into the Five Point Generalz street gang culminated in the seizure of 78 firearms, including 60 that were found to be in possession of one individual.
Police executed 53 search warrants across the GTA on Thursday morning but at a news conference on Friday it was revealed that the biggest bust actually occurred about a month ago, when a suspect was pulled over while en route from Cornwall to Toronto.
Police allege that the suspect had stashed 60 brand new handguns in the trunk of his vehicle after picking them up from individuals who had purchased them in Florida and smuggled them across the border.
They say that the seizure is the single largest involving illegal firearms in Toronto Police Services history.
“There is no doubt in the minds of investigators that these guns were destined for the streets of Toronto and the GTA to be used and sold by members of the Five Point Generalz,” Acting Inspector Dan Belanger told reporters at a news conference at police headquarters. “When sold at the street level in Toronto, it is estimated that these 60 guns would generate profits of $200,000.”
In addition to the 78 firearms, Belanger said that police also recovered firearm manufacturing equipment with enough parts on hand to produce another four handguns, a large quantity of ammunition, a bullet proof vest and four Tasers.
He said that illicit drugs with an estimated street value of $1.2 were also seized during the execution of search warrants, as was $184,000 in cash that police are alleging is the proceeds of crime.
Meanwhile, 75 people were arrested and charged with more than 1,000 combined offences.
Those offences include charges related to participating in a criminal organization, firearms-related offences, drug trafficking and robberies , Belanger said.
“The individuals arrested in this operation are not simply kids being exploited by gang members nor are they addicts being used,” he said. “They are organized criminals, a significant number of whom are no strangers to the criminal justice system.”
75 suspects have been arrested
Belanger said that the months-long probe into the Five Point Generalz began in September after investigators received credible information suggesting the gang was behind a number of murders and attempted murders in the city.
He said that of those arrested so far, 13 of them were also taken into custody during another investigation targeting the Five Point Generals back in 2010. That investigation was dubbed Project Corral and coincidently also resulted in the arrests of 70 people.
“There are absolutely people that served their sentence, were released and chose to return to a life of criminality,” Belanger said. “It’s frustrating but we are not naïve. We know that not everyone who goes through the correctional process comes out rehabilitated. That is just the reality of it.”
Gang has roots in Weston Road and Lawrence area
The Five Point Generalz gang has roots in the Weston Road and Lawrence Avenue area but is connected to crime across the city and extending into the U.S. and the Caribbean, according to police.
Belanger said that while investigators are confident that they have rounded up the highest ranking members of the Five Point Generalz, they also realize that the busts won’t eradicate gang violence in the northwest corner of the city.
“We realize that when we make mass arrests like this and seize firearms and drugs like this that it creates a void. We realize that drugs equal easy money and there will always be people willing to step in and fill that void,” he said.
While none of the suspects taken into custody on Thursday are facing homicide charges at this point, Belanger said that some of them are charged in connection with firearm discharges and attempted murders.
He said that the investigation remains “fluid” and that additional charges are possible.
Extra officers to be deployed
In the wake of arrests police plan to put additional officers in the part of the city where the Five Point Generalz were most active, according to Deputy Chief Jim Ramer.
Ramer, however, told CP24 that he is confident that the gang has at least been dealt a significant blow that will keep them from operating for the time being.
“I think right now they are ineffective. We have taken out the entire hierarchy of the gang and quite frankly they are not going to be able to operate,” he said.
About 800 police officers from 12 different police services participated in Thursday’s raids.