62 car break-ins & thefts re­ported

Mid­town com­mu­nity rocked, forms neigh­bour­hood watch

North Toronto Post - - News - –– Ge­orge Redak

A re­cent spate of car break-ins has put res­i­dents in the St. Clair Av­enue West com­mu­nity on edge, and they’ve de­cided to act quickly. Af­ter a se­ries of meet­ings, an event was or­ga­nized by the St. Clair West Res­i­dents Group (SCWRG) to set up a com­mu­nity watch pro­gram. SCWRG reached out to com­mu­nity leader Didi Cameron to help with this en­deav­our.

About a year ago, Cameron started an­other neigh­bour­hood watch pro­gram in her own neigh­bour­hood of Yonge Street and Lawrence Av­enue af­ter a spate of vi­o­lent in­ci­dents.

“There is def­i­nitely an un­easi­ness ev­ery morn­ing,” said Lorena Volken­born. “My hus­band wakes up very early, and now the first thing he does is to go out and check the car.”

On the morn­ing of Nov. 8, the Volken­borns found their Lexus se­verely dam­aged.

Theirs was only one in­ci­dent in a to­tal of 62 re­ported oc­cur­rences of mis­chief and theft from auto ve­hi­cles near Vaughan Road and St. Clair Av­enue West. Ac­cord­ing to data from the Toronto Po­lice Ser­vice (TPS), th­ese in­ci­dents all oc­curred be­tween Oct. 18 and Nov. 12.

Ac­cord­ing to the Volken­borns, of­fi­cers fol­lowed up two days af­ter they filed a po­lice re­port to let the cou­ple know that they were un­able to find any leads based on in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence.

“This is un­ac­cept­able,” said Lorena Volken­born. “I don’t care if they have to hire more peo­ple, but some­thing has to be done. This is not some­thing I am will­ing to set­tle for.”

De­pend­ing on the ve­hi­cle, dam­age costs can vary from $500 to $1,000 or more for a bro­ken win­dow. Noth­ing was stolen from their car, but the Volken­borns had to pay over $1,100 in dam­ages. Based on their in­ves­ti­ga­tions, of­fi­cers be­lieve that this neigh­bour­hood is specif­i­cally be­ing tar­geted.

“It’s an or­ga­nized crime is­sue. It’s not just a per­son with sub­stance abuse is­sues, mak­ing sure no one is home and tak­ing what­ever they can,” said Rui Si­moes, neigh­bour­hood of­fi­cer for TPS 13 Di­vi­sion. “They are tar­get­ing homes and ve­hi­cles that they know have value.”

Be­cause most cam­era sur­veil­lance sys­tems don’t cap­ture footage par­tic­u­larly well at night, which is when most of th­ese in­ci­dents oc­cur, po­lice have had dif­fi­culty gath­er­ing suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence.

“It has left many neigh­bour­hood res­i­dents in a state of fear, not know­ing what they are go­ing to find the next morn­ing,” said Josh Mat­low, in­com­ing coun­cil­lor for Ward 12 Toronto–St. Paul’s, an in­cum­bent whose newly ex­panded ward now cov­ers the St. Clair West area.

A meet­ing was held on Nov. 21 at the Artscape Wy­ch­wood Barns, where Cameron and of­fi­cers from the TPS 13 and 53 Divisions be­gan the process of set­ting up a com­mu­nity watch pro­gram for St. Clair West.

On top of putting up signs warn­ing away pos­si­ble per­pe­tra­tors, Cameron also has cre­ated an on­line an­nounce­ment board where she posts up­dates for the neigh­bours and of­fi­cers.

Res­i­dents cor­re­spond with Cameron di­rectly via email, pro­vid­ing her with any in­for­ma­tion or ev­i­dence. She then checks with po­lice to en­sure only facts are pre­sented and sends up­dates to the res­i­dents.

“It is dif­fer­ent than Face­book be­cause of the se­cu­rity and pri­vacy,” said Cameron. “It is strictly me let­ting them know what has hap­pened, if they have in­for­ma­tion, to give it to me or to send it to the cops.”

One com­mon sen­ti­ment echoed by both the coun­cil­lor and res­i­dents is the need to in­crease po­lice pres­ence in the area.

“Our com­mu­nity’s mes­sage to the po­lice is that they do ev­ery­thing they can as quickly as pos­si­ble to cre­ate a safer climate in the neigh­bour­hood,” said Mat­low.

“In turn, the po­lice are ask­ing com­mu­nity mem­bers that, if they are a vic­tim or a wit­ness to th­ese crimes, to re­port di­rectly to 13 Di­vi­sion.”

“This is un­ac­cept­able. I don’t care if they have to hire more peo­ple, but some­thing has to be done.”

Didi Cameron (right) and of­fi­cers from TPS 13 Di­vi­sion at a re­cent com­mu­nity meet­ing

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