Toronto carries on, as police on alert after vague threat
TORONTO — Information about a “potential risk” in the Greater Toronto Area led to an increase in police presence in Toronto’s downtown core on Thursday, but officers insisted the public should not avoid any of the city’s attractions, prompting confusion among some and anxiety in others.
Police would not specify what information they had received, or what their officers were looking for, but said the situation and their response were relatively common occurrences.
“Toronto police received information regarding a potential risk to public safety,” Acting Supt. Michael Barsky told reporters while standing just steps from the CN Tower, Rogers Centre and Ripley’s Aquarium, all of which remained open.
“The police presence in this area is simply to ensure that the public can enjoy and come down to this area unimpeded and without any worry.”
Police had tweeted at 9:30 a.m. that an “unconfirmed, uncorroborated piece of information” about the GTA had led them to boost the number of officers downtown. Shortly after, Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s office said it was aware of the “unsubstantiated” report of a potential threat in Toronto, and Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale tweeted that federal agencies were aware of the situation and ready to help if necessary.
The police tweet sparked anxiety and confusion in several Torontonians.
“I think it’s kind of scary because you know there’s a threat but you don’t know what it is,” said Nida Rafiq, who works across from Union Station, adding that she felt “paranoid” because police provided so little information.
Others took to social media to express their nervousness.
“The police aren’t saying anything and scaring… us,” one person tweeted.
Barsky, who spoke at a press conference about two hours after the police tweet, said he “appreciated” comments about the message being vague.
“If we had more specifics or we could provide more specifics we would certainly be forthwith with that,” he said. “I can’t speculate on how people are going to interpret our message.”
At midday, families, tour groups and vendors bustled around the base of the CN Tower. Several passersby said they had not heard anything about the increased police presence. A handful of Emergency Task Force personnel patrolled a nearby, as cruisers parked at multiple intersections.
Despite the confusion surrounding police activity, Kevin Manol, 43, said he was not worried.
“It’s just another day in Toronto,” he said.