Crime Prevention

 

Frontage of 233 Carlton StreetThe CRA attended the Community Forum on  21 February at the Cabbagetown Youth Centre, along with several other local resident’s associations and many Cabbagetown residents.

We were wearing two hats that night, as both the CRA and as supporters of the Cabbagetown Coalition – a grassroots group of Cabbagetown residents, businesses and residents associations, focused on addressing safety and security concerns related to the proposed drop-in and respite centre at 233 Carlton Street.

We have worked closely with the Cabbagetown Coalition to pull together this comprehensive report on our findings at this session.

We also picked up several useful background documents and brochures related to Downtown East Action Plan, Respite Services and 233 Carlton itself. These can all be accessed via links in the report.

The City has promised to get back to residents with their own report on their findings at the Forum, which will hopefully also detail what they plan to do to address all the concerns raised by residents. When we get a copy of this report we will be sure share it on the CRA web site. 

If you were not able to attend and still wish to have your own voice heard directly, you can email the city’s engagement consultants for 233 Carlton Street  – Joy Connelly and Joe Mihevc, at clc.233carlton@gmail.com.  Please feel free to cc info@cabbagetowner.com on such communications.

By Des Ryan, a retired police officer, who is the volunteer safety and security lead on the CRA’s board of directors.

How many times have you accidentally tripped your house alarm? Too often to remember?

More often than not, false alarms are the result of user error. This results in having to dispatch two (yes, two!) officers to an address only to discover that all appears to be in order (as we like to say in policing circles!) each and every time.

This is an extremely costly process and consumes an enormous amount of deployable police hours: Toronto Police report that, in 2016, more than 97 per cent of alarm calls turned out to be false.

As a result, as of September 10th, the Toronto Police Service has implemented a new policy. Going forward, Police will be responding to alarm calls under the following conditions:
– the Monitoring Station is registered with the TPS, complied with call-processing requirements and is not under any TPS suspensions; and,
– the Monitoring Station must also comply with the verified response requirement as applied to burglar alarm system signals.

Since these conditions have to do with your alarm company, be sure to contact them asap to ensure that they are doing their part.

Other criteria that determine whether your alarm will be responded to include what is called “acceptable verified response criteria.”. These include:

– Audio devices (i.e., alarm systems that transfer real-time audio to an actual person listening in on the alarm);
– Video device (same as above, only real-time video transfer);
– An eyewitness (i.e. private security or person at scene); or
– Multiple zone activations (i.e., an alarm system that separates and reports incidents or alarm signals by areas that are monitored by the Monitoring Station. Zone 1 – Front Door, Zone 2 –Front Entry Motion, Zone 3 –Kitchen Motion, etc.).

What this means is that, rather than chasing after alarms like a dog after a ball in the park, TPS will only be responding to alarms that are legitimately verifiable. Having so said, there is nothing saying that the aforementioned ball-chasing dog could not be frolicking in your home, setting off multiple zone alarms in your house.

Note to self: do not set zone alarm unless dog is out of house.

Then, be sure to do your part in reducing false alarms (and getting yourself suspended from police response!). This includes changing the batteries of your alarm. Frequently. Make sure the sensors are clear of cobwebs and other debris that can send a false reading. Make sure your keyholder information is up-dot-date and be sure to schedule regular maintenance on the alarm. Finally, make sure your family and anyone else who uses the system knows how it works.

If you have any further concerns, or you just really like to read policy, check this out.

As an aside, this does not affect police response to Panic Alarm.

Des Ryan is a CRA volunteer board director and retired police officer who leads our safety and security work.

It is the end of August. Already! Summer holidays are nearly over, and the roads will be packed again as people return to work and the kids return to school.

If you are a driver, you are likely already aware of the usual pre-school drill: watch for children, be mindful of school buses loading and unloading, keep your speeds down in school zones (Always, you say!).

A couple other things I’d like to highlight:
– Never pass other vehicles, change lanes, or make U-turns while driving in a school zone.
– Unless licensed to do so, never use handicap or emergency vehicle lanes or spaces to drop off or pick up children at school.

So how about the kids? Regardless of how old they are, going back to school can still cause a bit of anxiety. Even getting to school can be a big deal. As you know, the best way to keep your little one (more or less) calm is for you to be (more or less) calm, which means anticipating some of the obstacles they may encounter.

If you’re walking your child to school, leave enough time to arrive at school at least 10 minutes prior to start time. Expect delays (Squirrel!). No point being in a panic before the day even begins. And take the same route there and back every day. It’s easy for little ones to get confused and turned around (did I say Squirrel already?), and they need to know how to get home alone, even if you anticipate always dropping off/picking up.

Of course, you’ll be walking on sidewalks, using designated crosswalks and/or traffic-controlled intersections and street corners as part of your route. And nobody’s running across the street. Oh, and remind your charge not to pop onto the street between parked cars — nobody needs that.

If your child is now too old to be seen in public with you, encourage them to walk to school with their friends. Safety in numbers. Remind them not to talk to strangers or get into a vehicle with anyone, even if they know them (you don’t want to know those stats about offenders known to the victims, I’m sure), unless you have already agreed that this person is okay.

Pre-emptively give your child the language and a few moves that will help them if a stranger approaches them, regardless of their age. And make sure you child knows that they need to tell someone in authority (i.e. you, a teacher, or a caregiver) about the incident as soon as possible.

If your little one is going to ride a bike to school, do a couple of practice runs before school starts. Make sure they know how to get there (and back) safely, even if you intend on going with them every day. Of course, they will have a helmet that fits that they will wear the entire time that they are riding their bike (see previous post for helmet safety and Highway Traffic Act fines!). As well as being the law, stats suggest that, in the event of an accident (which could be as minor as falling over at the stop sign) wearing a helmet reduces the risk of head injury by as much as 85 per cent. Good enough for me!

Also, if your child is big enough to ride on the road, make sure they know the rules, stay on the right-hand side, and uses the appropriate hand signals (signals, not gestures). If your child is old enough to ride to school on their own, suggest that they ride with a buddy. It’s easier to see two or three bikes than one.

And now that we are on the road, what about those backpacks? I’ve seen ones that look like they weigh more than the kid! To prevent injury, backpacks should have wide straps, padding in the back and shoulders, and should not weigh more than 10 to 15 per cent of a child’s body weight. And, while it may seem obvious, place the heavier items in the backpack first. The closer the heavier stuff is to the child’s back, the less strain it will cause. And try to have your child use both backpack straps and distribute their stuff as evenly as they can. I know….

Last little reminder: Depending on your child’s age, get rid of the drawstrings on their jackets and hoodies. They don’t serve any real purpose and they can cause some problems.

And now that the kids are back in school, we can all have a moment to ourselves for a coffee, beginning to end!

Thanks to the residents who participated in the residents’ association safety and security questionnaire, which we had in the field in late 2017. The survey results were presented to the CRA Annual General Meeting held on June 8, 2018.

The area the Cabbagetown Residents’ Association represents – bounded by Gerrard to the north, Parliament to the west, St. James Cemetery to the north and the Don Valley to the east – covers around 2,000 households and 4,000 people.

Our questionnaire, which we promoted via our Cabbagetowner e-newsletter (627 subscribers), Facebook page (500+ followers) and Twitter account (1,900+ followers), drew 132 responses, of which 114 identified that they lived within the CRA boundaries. The numbers below are based on the responses from those 114 individuals.

Respondents were most concerned about personal safety: CRA’s past president Phil Frei, who has gone over all the survey responses in details, said he grouped together a variety of responses under the umbrella of personal safety, such as concerns about walking at night, muggers, and panhandlers on Parliament Street.

* Personal safety: 32 per cent
* Break-in/thefts: 28 per cent
* Violent crime/shootings: 13 per cent
* Other: 10 per cent (includes road safety issues with cars and bicycles)
* Drugs: eight per cent

The remaining 10 per cent said they had no/little concern, or left the question blank.

Of those who responded, 55 per cent said they had experienced a theft, or attempted theft or vandalism, at their home, 73 per cent said they had experienced a theft, or attempted theft or vandalism, of their car, and 59 per cent said they had experienced a theft, or attempted theft or vandalism, of their bicycle.

Des Ryan, a retired police officer and CRA board director who is the volunteer lead on safety and security issues for the CRA, points out that people who have experienced a theft would be more disposed to respond to a questionnaire on safety issues because they had heightened awareness due to that personal experience. He cautions against extrapolating the experience of 60 to 80 people into percentages for all Cabbagetowners and our households.

Nearly three-quarters of the respondents who had experienced a theft or other crime had reported it to police. About one third got a response from police, usually a follow-up on investigation. Why did the others not report to police? Among the responses:
* The police wouldn’t do anything
* It was my fault for leaving the door open / unlocked
* It’s not serious enough to report.

Des reminds everyone to report everything, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, because the police allocate resources based on reporting: it was only when more people reported on vandalism to their cars parked on the streets this winter, for instance, that police understood there was a pattern and likely common perpetrators.

Des Ryan, a retired police officer, is a CRA board director and volunteer security lead.

Can you believe that it’s the end of June already? Wow.

I’d like to share a couple of important updates with you.

Like myself, many of you are likely wondering what happened at St. Martin’s Catholic School on May 29. There were numerous stories swirling about, but here is what actually happened as per the police report. Two individuals were involved in a robbery that day and a firearm was alleged to have been used. The investigation led to St. Martin’s, where two 18-year-old youths were arrested, along with a third youth. There was, thankfully, no gun. One of the young men arrested had a knife tucked into his waist that had been mistaken for a gun by one of the original callers.

I have been in communication with the unit commander of 51 Division regarding the gun violence we are experiencing in and near our neighbourhood.

Superintendent Tony Riviere advised that, as of June 8, there had been 17 reported incidents of shots being fired within 51 Division (Bloor/Yonge/Lake Ontario/Don River). Of those 17 incidents, none of them were within our catchment area specifically, but nine occurred within the area bordered by Gerrard/River/Shuter/Parliament (Regent Park). Of these incidents, some resulted in injury, while many did not. Our police division is joining with other downtown divisions to launch for Project Red Brick, which aims to combat gun violence and has already resulted in the arrest of eight individuals, four on June 12 and another four on June 15, for gun- and drug-related offences.

“There is definitely an increased level of gun violence as compared to last year,” Riviere told CBC News. “It’s of concern to us.”

On June 18, Councillor Lucy Troisi invited me to a meeting of a working group that included herself, Mayor John Tory, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, and a small group of people from the city to discuss safety and security issues in and around Cabbagetown. Gun violence and police response was certainly at the top of the list, followed closely by issues such as shelter support and ongoing outreach for homeless individuals, park cleanliness, and all of the things that make us feel safe in our communities.

Service level adjustments are being recommended this week in some of the “‘hot spots” of what is known as Downtown East, which do not include Cabbagetown. It was made clear at the meeting, however, that whatever is (or is not) done directly impacts our use and enjoyment of the businesses, parks, and facilities in our neighbourhood.

This working group seems to be quite sincere in generating positive outcomes and I shall keep you posted as I am updated.

In the meantime, stay cool!

Toronto Police have announced that two men were arrested around 4 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 19 near Sackville Street. by undercover police officers.

Police issued a news release about the arrests just before noon on Monday, Feb. 19, with the following text:

“The Toronto Police Service, 51 Division, would like to make the public aware that two arrests have been made in the investigation into a rash of vandalism that occurred to vehicles in the Cabbagetown area.

“It is alleged that, at approximately 4 a.m. this morning, members of the 51 Division Major Crime Unit and the 51 Division Community Response Unit, were in the area and noticed suspicious behavior.

“The officers witnessed two people entering vehicles which were parked along Sackville Street and also committing damage to them. These suspects were approached by the officers and immediately ran. The officers pursued and were able to apprehend the suspects after a brief chase. Located were a knife and an ice-pick-type instrument on each suspect.

“The following were arrested and charged:

Estuardo Anfree Rivas, 21 years old, Toronto
* Mischief/Damage to Property not exceeding $5,000.00 X5
* Theft Under $5000.00
* Possession of Break and Enter Instrument
* Carry Concealed Weapon

Samson Bambino Carter, 18 years old, Toronto
* Mischief/Damage to Property not exceeding $5,000.00 X5
* Carry Concealed Weapon

The investigation is continuing and members of the public are being encouraged to continue being aware and vigilant of suspicious activity and to contact police and report any behavior that they find suspicious.

The investigators would still like residents to review their personal home security surveillance systems and send any video to police that may have captured vehicles being damaged or any other suspicious activity or persons.”

Please see the Cabbagetowner’s previous post on the auto vandalism, published Feb. 15,  for all the how-to tips on submitting video and reporting to the police.

Incidents of auto vandalism, first reported Feb. 8 on The Cabbagetowner post Auto vandalism investigation continues, have continued in our neighbourhood, with the latest reports coming from Sumach and Geneva streets.

The following breakdown and plotting of occurrences were provided today by Toronto Police Services 51 Division. Apologies for the poor /small quality of the map, but it does show the concentration of occurences, with 45 reported.

“There is no reasonable time frame for these occurrences, only that the overwhelming majority are occuring overnight after the vehicles have been parked for the night,” says Detective Sergeant Scott Spratt, who is in charge of the investigation. “At this point, there is no suspect information available.” Occurrences have happened on every night of the week, although there is a higher concentration on Tuesdays.

The CRA is recommending that, if you have security cameras at your property, please point them toward the street overnight. If you see anything suspicious when you review the footage, please submit to Toronto Police 51 Division, using this wetransfer link D51.wetransfer.com

Advice on how to package the video and information you should include: the “GO#” is the incident number for a crime report. If you have not filed a report because you have not been personally affected, indicate this if footage related to Cabbagetown auto vandalism.

Once uploaded, an email is sent automatically to the criminal investigation unit (CISU), then CISU processes the video and/or loads smaller clips directly into the occurrence file, which goes to the assigned investigator.

CRA volunteers have heard that some neighbours have experienced minor acts of vandalism (such as letting air out of a tire) that they have not reported because it did not seem worth it at the time: however, the more reports police have, the better they are able to track patterns and investigate. If you have not reported auto vandalism from 2018, please do so now. Police ask that you use this online reporting tool: http://www.torontopolice.on.ca/core/damage_to_vehicle.php

PC Kim Kelly and PC Sean Imrie are reviewing the videos and assisting: they can be reached at 416-808-5108.

Everyone should be vigilant about checking their car tires before starting up their vehicles: one resident reported that tires in that instance were not slashed or damaged, but air had been let out; the flats were not noticed before driving away, resulting in expensive damage to the wheels.

The Cabbagetown area has had a rash of vandalism aimed at cars parked on the street. As reported in a recent CRA crime alert (to which you can subscribe if you don’t already do so), eight cars were spray painted along Bowman and Flagger streets on Jan. 31. There have also been reports over last weekend and this week of tires slashed or gouged on Laurier Spruce and Wellesley streets, and on Ontario between Carlton and Gerrard in the Cabbagetown South Residents Association area.
 
If you have had any damage done to your car in the past weeks, please report it to Toronto police so they understand the full scope of the issue.

Police ask that you use this online reporting tool:
 http://www.torontopolice.on.ca/core/damage_to_vehicle.php
 
If you have a neighbour who has had a vehicle damaged but may be uncomfortable with the online reporting form, please consider assisting that person to report. It only takes a few moments to complete.
 
If you have any security cameras that face the streets that have been affected, and were operational at the times of the vandalism, please secure that footage and contact Toronto Police 51 Division, which covers our neighbourhood, at 416 808 5100 to arrange to have investigators take a look at it. You may not think you have anything to offer, but no clue is too small. 
 
The Cabbagetown Residents Association has been in touch with 51 Division and has met with a representative from Ward 28 Councillor Lucy Troisi’s office on this matter. The councillor’s office is advocating for continued police investigation and action.

Des Ryan, a retired police officer, a CRA board director and our volunteer Safety and Security lead.

We know what to do in the event we find our home (or business) broken into, but what do we do in the moment? That moment when we arrive and find that the door has been kicked in, or a window has been smashed? Of course, you’re going to call the police, but what do you actually do before that?

Breathe. Yes, take a deep breath. Maybe two. And then step away. Go back to the sidewalk or the elevator or wherever it was you came from. And then call the police. 9-1- 1. This is the real deal.

The call-taker will ask you a lot of questions, some of which you will be able to answer, some of which you won’t. Don’t worry about that. Answer what you can and don’t feel foolish for not knowing everything about everything. For example, you can’t possibly know what was stolen at this time. It is also unlikely that you will know if the intruder is still in the house or office.

And this is the important part: Unless you are absolutely sure that no one is in your home or office, do not go in. Yes, you may have left this morning at 10 a.m. and it is now midnight, but the intruder may have just arrived at your home. The intruder(s) likely have little to no interest in confronting anyone. One might even say that the type of individual who engages in B&Es prefers to work unsupervised. Should you arrive while the break-in is in progress, your risk of getting injured is fairly high because the intruder(s) have been startled and, let’s face it—very few of us behave well when we’ve been caught out.

Instead, wait outside or at a neighbour’s or a nearby shop until police arrive. Let the officers ensure your home or office is safe to enter. Whatever has been stolen or damaged is already gone. There is no point involving yourself in a confrontation with someone who may have nothing to lose.

Warning: In Toronto in our present time, it may take an hour or longer for officers to respond. If, after an hour or so, no one has arrived, call again. The call-taker will be able to tell you why there is a delay and how much longer it will likely be before anyone is available to respond. At some point, it is reasonable to assume your home or business is safe to enter: that’s a decision for you to make but do not make that initial call to the police from inside what is now the crime scene.

When the police arrive, you will be asked many questions, most of which will be straightforward. Please provide as much information as you can. Is there any reason someone may have entered the space without your knowledge? Tell the police. A former partner may still have a key and have come by to retrieve a forgotten item. As well, landlords who are owed rent have been known to “reclaim” a space.

You will be given a number to call to provide a detailed list of your property that will then be added to the initial report. If nothing was taken, this is still a Break & Enter.

Be sure to get the General Occurrence Number from the attending officers before they leave. You will need this number to update the occurrence and for any insurance claim(s) you may make.

The officers may advise that a Scene of Crime Officer (SOCO) will attend to take prints. Or not.

Remember: this is not TV. Not all surfaces are suitable to be printed. And not all prints correspond to anything on file, which is to say: the person(s) who broke into your place may never have been printed by police before (everyone starts somewhere), so their prints are not stored anywhere to be matched with the prints the SOCO may be able to lift from your coffee table or bathroom mirror.

It may be an hour or longer after the initial officers have left before the SOCO arrives. The
original officers will likely be able to tell you the area where the SOCO will be focusing their attention, such that, in the event of a lengthy delay, you can cordon off that area and carry on until whatever requires printing and/or photographing is done.

Finally, know that there is something off-putting about having one’s personal space invaded. You may find yourself being a bit hyper-vigilant for the week or so after the B&E,  double/triple/quadruple-checking that you have locked the door and/or maybe finding yourself a bit on edge. All of that is more than reasonable.

If, after a few days, however, you find yourself unable to sleep or obsessing about your home security (or your friends/family find you obsessing), don’t hesitate to seek professional counselling. At the end of the day, as common as Break & Enters may be for the rest of the world, it is likely uncommon for you. Get the support you need, whether it’s from a family member, a friend, a colleague, or a professional.

Your residents’ association directors would like wider feedback about Cabbagetown safety and security concerns so we can better plan education and interventions, and advocate on your behalf with the city and police.

We are running a Safety and Security Survey that we invite all residents to take. The survey will remain open for two weeks from Monday, Oct. 30 to Monday, Nov. 14. We will report on the survey results in a future newsletter.

Please take the Cabbagetown Residents Association safety and security survey.

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