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The city has suf­fered through a year of aw­ful crimes from a van at­tack and the Dan­forth shoot­ing to the Lea­side se­rial killer and the Sher­man homi­cides. These in­ci­dents made us all feel less safe, but what about the most preva­lent crime we face? Neigh­bour­hood crime is nowhere near as hor­rific, but we take it se­ri­ously. To that end, we drilled down into po­lice sta­tis­tics and re­ports to see how safe our back­yards re­ally are.

Lo­cal res­i­dent re­ports break-ins as a fre­quent oc­cur­rence

There have been more than 400 break-ins re­ported in 53 Divi­sion this year and Const. Ti­mothy Somers of Toronto Po­lice Ser­vice, 53 Divi­sion said that is sig­nif­i­cant.

“Crim­i­nals have be­come more so­phis­ti­cated and are tar­get­ing houses for specifics,” said Const. Somers, adding break-in rings are us­ing more peo­ple to case out neigh­bour­hoods. “Be­cause that takes time to study peo­ple’s sched­ule to fig­ure out when to ap­pro­pri­ately break into a house.”

Har­bord vil­lage res­i­dent Anne Marie Lorusso said break-ins are a ma­jor prob­lem in her area.

“I have lived in Har­bord vil­lage since 2001 and have ex­pe­ri­ence mul­ti­ple car break-ins and thefts in and around my prop­erty, in­clud­ing my trees be­ing lit­er­ally dug up out of the front lawn three times in a row,” she said.

Most re­cently, Lorusso’s house was bro­ken into sev­eral times while it was un­der con­struc­tion. They de­ter­mined the thieves were en­ter­ing through the base­ment win­dows and had the con­trac­tors board up the stairs on each floor ev­ery night so thieves couldn’t make their way through the house.

The ex­pe­ri­ence has taken a toll on Lorusso, and she has taken mea­sures to pre­vent fu­ture break-ins.

“I’m lit­er­ally al­ways cog­nizant of what I have around the house that can sim­ply be picked up and car­ried away. I had cam­eras in­stalled to cover my park­ing and yard be­cause I know that any­one that ren­o­vates gets bro­ken into shortly af­ter they move back home,” she said.

Auto thefts in­crease as thieves use new tech­nol­ogy to clone key fobs from a dis­tance

As of mid-Oc­to­ber this year, 148 cars had been re­ported stolen to Toronto Po­lice Ser­vice, 53 Divi­sion. This is a dras­tic in­crease from the 59 cars re­ported stolen in 2017.

“We can tell you what has driven that spike,” said Const. Ti­mothy Somers. “There’s been changes in tech­nol­ogy that have be­come avail­able for peo­ple to mimic or to clone the key fobs of var­i­ous mod­els of ve­hi­cles us­ing lap­top tech­nol­ogy.”

Ba­si­cally, car thieves sim­ply need to get close enough to a home to reach the sig­nal that is be­ing emit­ted by a per­son’s key fob and then clone that key fob into their lap­top. The lap­top then be­comes the key fob. They walk up to the ve­hi­cle, and the sig­nal tells the car that they are the owner, so it opens the doors, and the thieves are able to drive away.

Steve Kee, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the In­sur­ance Bureau of Canada, said he has also seen new types of tech­nol­ogy and apps that al­low car thieves easy ac­cess to ve­hi­cles.

“A highly mo­ti­vated thief with the right tools can steal a ve­hi­cle in a mat­ter of sec­onds, so en­sure you’re do­ing ev­ery­thing in your power to not leave your­self vul­ner­a­ble,” said Kee.

Rob­beries de­crease af­ter po­lice stop groups of stu­dents in mid­town

Un­like many other crime sta­tis­tics for 53 Divi­sion that show in­creases from 2017 to 2018 year-to-date, in­stances of rob­bery have de­creased.

“One of the things we re­al­ized with rob­beries was there was a large fo­cus on rob­beries in the Yonge-Eglin­ton area,” said Const. Somers. “We were able to de­ter­mine through in­ves­ti­ga­tion and track­ing that that was be­ing largely in­sti­gated by the stu­dent pop­u­la­tion of the sur­round­ing schools.”

Somers said po­lice iden­ti­fied the be­hav­iour of and in­fil­trated cer­tain groups of stu­dents from dif­fer­ent schools in the area.

“It made a sig­nif­i­cant dent in the amount of rob­beries in 53 Divi­sion,” said Const. Somers.

In May of this year, a rob­bery in the An­nex re­sulted in a col­li­sion. The Toronto Po­lice Ser­vice re­ceived a call that a fe­male sus­pect at­tended a store in the Colonnade at 131 Bloor St. W., said she had a gun and stole three hand­bags be­fore flee­ing. Shortly af­ter, a col­li­sion was re­ported and in­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve the van seen flee­ing from the rob­bery was the same one in­volved in the col­li­sion.

Rise of porch thieves ac­counts for many theft over $5,000 cases

The rate of theft over $5,000 cases in 53 Divi­sion has es­sen­tially stayed the same from 2017 to 2018 year-to-date, but Const. Somers said one of the main dif­fer­ences this year is that many of these cases can be at­trib­uted to porch thieves.

“A large chunk of what you’re see­ing there are theft from mail, pack­age theft, shoplift­ing and theft from mo­tor ve­hi­cles where they’ve been bro­ken into and [thieves] stole items such as com­put­ers, cam­eras, things like that,” said Const. Somers.

Pack­age de­liv­ery com­pa­nies, such as FedEx, Puro­la­tor, UPS and Canada

Post, have seen an in­crease in pack­age theft due to the rise of on­line shop­ping and the pop­u­lar­ity of web­sites like Ama­zon.

“We had one just a cou­ple days ago, and we ac­tu­ally got the en­tire in­ci­dent on video where a per­son just sim­ply drove around the neigh­bour­hood in his SUV, he looked for pack­ages, and when he’d see them on the porch, he’d sim­ply just walk up, grab them and non­cha­lantly walk back and load them in his truck,” said Const. Somers. “Peo­ple are or­der­ing things to their door, and that just opens the door to this type of thief to come and grab those pack­ages.”

Steve Kee of the In­sur­ance Bureau of Canada said, “If you’re hav­ing de­liv­er­ies and things come, it’s bet­ter to ar­range for times that you’re go­ing to be at home or to have them go to some sort of a lo­cal drop-off lo­ca­tion.”

As­sault on a neigh­bour in­spired a new neigh­bour­hood watch

On a Satur­day af­ter­noon last fall, Yonge and Lawrence res­i­dent DiDi Cameron was walk­ing home af­ter a run when she found out that one of her neigh­bours had been at­tacked, slashed and stabbed in broad day­light.

“That af­ter­noon, I was re­ally ner­vous,” said Cameron. “I’m a sin­gle mom of three, but even if you were mar­ried with five kids, you would still be ner­vous that this per­son was lurk­ing around.”

Cameron con­tacted Const. Somers at 53 Divi­sion to dis­cuss ways they could make the com­mu­nity safer.

She then went door to door with a bag with pieces of pa­per with her email ad­dress and told her neigh­bours that she was go­ing to start a neigh­bour­hood watch in a pri­vate, on­line Google group.

“By that Sun­day, I had 80 fam­i­lies join. They had all emailed me, and I was up and run­ning on Mon­day,” said Cameron.

Her neigh­bour­hood watch group now reaches more than 400 fam­i­lies, and she’s been in touch with res­i­dents in Mount Pleas­ant, For­est Hill, Rosedale and Bathurst-Eglin­ton to cre­ate sim­i­lar groups in those ar­eas.

Al­though the idea for the neigh­bour­hood watch group was trig­gered by an as­sault, much of the group’s fo­cus is on auto theft and home and car break-ins.

“[The neigh­bour­hood watch] has been ab­so­lutely in­stru­men­tal in at least three ar­rests al­ready in 2018 that would have never hap­pened with­out them, sim­ply be­cause they got ahead of it with video and re­ported sus­pi­cious in­ci­dents that fit the cat­e­gory of some­body who was pre­par­ing for a break and en­ter,” said Const. Somers.

Two sus­pects who were ar­rested as part of a break-in ring

53 Divi­sion at 75 Eglin­ton Ave. W.

DiDi Cameron started a neigh­bour­hood watch in her area

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