Police drug raid targets a ‘safe neighbourhood’

An otherwise safe and friendly neighbourhood had its seedy underbelly exposed during a police raid on Monday.

Toronto Police Service released a statement Monday afternoon informing the public that they had arrested 96 people and laid 238 charges relating to drug offenses.

Police from 14 Division executed warrants at three residences within the area bordered by Bloor, King and Bathurst Streets and Ossington Avenue. The raids yielded 318 grams of crack and cocaine worth over $30,000, as well as various quantities of marijuana, hashish, ecstasy and LSD.

The scale of the operation shocked many local residents, including University of Toronto student Michael Stokes.

“It’s actually very surprising,” he said. “Where I live, at Grace and College, it’s really friendly and calm. You don’t see a lot of sketchy people walking around. It’s what I had thought to be a safe place to live.”

Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone is the city councillor for Ward 19, the area targeted by the police raid. His reaction echoed Stokes’ belief that residents shouldn’t feel unsafe in the area.

“Generally (these neighbourhoods) are very safe,” he said. “They’re not perfect, but they’re very safe. People should not get any impression other than that. The key is to make sure that they’re kept safe.”

However, Pantalone also admitted that problems like this will continue to exist, even after an operation of this magnitude.

“We know that the police cannot eradicate this kind of issue,” he said. “As long as there’s a market there will be suppliers. But we can ensure that we reduce the (impact) and maintain some degree of control.”

Pantalone believes that keeping this area, as well as others like it, safe requires a strong stance towards drug trafficking and a consistent police presence.

“Drug dealing should not be tolerated,” he said. “It just creates victims and makes residents feel unsafe in their neighborhood…enforcement is part of making people feel better. They (need to) know that the police are around.”

Stokes has noticed the visible presence of police in the area over the last several months, which may have contributed to some residents’ perceptions of personal safety.

“I do notice that there are police around fairly regularly. I wouldn’t feel concerned about being able to find an officer or to have an officer respond to a call. They seem to be very close by at all times.”

Despite the fact that these arrests will have an impact on the drug trade in these areas, Stokes believes that most residents won’t notice the difference.

“I imagine I won’t see a big change in the area,” he said. “But it does change the way you would think about it, knowing that this element is actually present.”