HOW SAFE ARE OSSINGTON LITTLE ITALY AND ANNEX?
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.
53 Division at 75 Eglinton Ave. W.
DiDi Cameron started a neighbourhood watch in her area