Police bring message of safety to 42 Division meeting

Photo/KYLE MACPHERSON
Police Chief Bill Blair, left, takes some questions before a community town hall meeting at L' Amoreaux Collegiate Tuesday. The meeting was held to give the community the opportunity to raise concerns on policing issues directly to Blair.


Residents told crime stats down in 'safest division in the city'

 
 
Despite what people may think, 42 Division is a safe place to live.

That was the message Police Chief Bill Blair and members of 42 Division relayed to north Scarborough residents at a town hall meeting Tuesday evening at L'Amoreaux Collegiate Institute.

"If you read the paper or watch the first five minutes of the six o'clock news you would think the whole place is going to hell in a handbasket and the reality is we've made progress," Blair said. "We live in one of the safest cities in the world, definitely in Canada and North America."

The area of Scarborough north of Hwy. 401 between Victoria Park Avenue and the Pickering Townline is covered by 42 Division, which is the largest division both in terms of geography and population.

Supt. Bob Clarke told the more than 40 residents in attendance that crime in their neighbourhoods has decreased and is continuing to do so.

"We are the safest division in the city," he said. "You are safer in 42 Division than in any other division in Toronto."

He said major crime is down 15 per cent.

While the statistics might show crime is on the downturn, residents still have concerns about the graffiti that they see, gun crimes they hear about and the traffic dangers in their community.

Dominic Veroni is concerned with gangs and guns.

"They're becoming more brazen," he said. "Every time they get arrested or caught with the arms there seems to be an increase in the activity."

Even if gun violence has decreased, Veroni feels more can be done to protect the public from any risk that remains.

"The perception is there seems to be no fear (on the part of criminals). The problem is there are innocent people who could be injured," he said.

He would like to see stiffer sentences for those who are caught with weapons.

Residents also asked questions about cyber bullying, crimes involving the Internet and red light cameras.

About a dozen youth from a group at a nearby church attended the meeting for a while as well. Speaking on behalf of the youth, their program leader asked how youth who have never been charged and who aren't doing anything wrong should react when approached by police.

Blair said while police should not be harassing people, getting to know everyone in a neighbourhood is part of community policing. He said they are continually working on building relationships with youth.

Blair, who grew up and still lives in Scarborough, reiterated that the per-capita crime rate is lower than anywhere else in the city.

"I feel a certain responsibility for Scarborough because it's my community. It's where I grew up and where I raised my family," he said.

When he became chief three years ago, there were people who said he should move out of Scarborough.

"I don't dare and I don't want to," was his reply.

He said he lives in a great neighbourhood where people know one another and it's very safe.

He acknowledges there are pockets of Scarborough that face challenges, but the same can be said of North York and Etobicoke.

"We just have to continue to educate people about what a great community this is," he said. "It's worth fighting for."

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