Police host Beach town hall

About two dozen concerned Beachers gathered at Community Centre 55 on May 15 for a town hall-style meeting hosted by the Toronto Police Service’s 55 Division, which covers the East End from the Don River to Victoria Park, and from Danforth south to the lake.

Superintendent Elizabeth Byrnes began the meeting by offering a ‘state of the division’ summary of crime in the Beach area of the division. As in past years, the Beach remains a great place to live safely – and a bad place to leave valuables in your car.

“Compared to other areas we don’t have a lot of violent crimes, we have a lot of property crimes,” said Byrnes.

Thefts from vehicles – often those that are left unlocked – is a common occurrence in the division. What may be the sign of a larger issue is that many of those arrested tend to be in their 30s, 40s or even into their 50s.

“That’s an indication of drugs or drug problems,” said Byrnes.

Staff Sergeant Adrianne Johnstone added that there tend to be ‘usual suspects’ in the area when it comes to property crimes like theft and break and enter.

“We have a very small group of people who are doing the crimes here. We have very few whodunits,” she said.

Byrnes talked about several initiatives the division has undertaken, including having officers patrol problem areas on foot every shift, walking old-fashioned beats. The annual concentration of resources on parks in the area is also underway.

“We recognize that there’s a huge change in the population in the parklands in the summer,” said Johnstone.

The ‘Wanted Wednesday’ project has also been hugely successful, with a very high arrest rate resulting from featuring one criminal each week.

“We actually had someone come in and say, ‘I’m your Wanted Wednesday’,” said Byrnes.

Johnstone added the project is so effective, some local troublemakers have started acting to avoid being featured in the spot, which is published in this newspaper and on CityTV.

“We’re also starting to have ‘turn-in Tuesday’,” she said.

A recurring theme at the meeting was a call for residents to fill out Community Complaint Forms, which are used by the crime analysis team to focus police presence in problem areas. Any problem which is a possible issue but doesn’t warrant a call to 911 is an issue that should be recorded on the forms.

Byrnes also encouraged residents to ‘like’ the division at Facebook.com/TPS55, as a great way of spreading information around a neighbourhood quickly.

“It’s very real, it’s very fast and it’s much more dynamic than us putting out a press release,” she said.

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