The relentless police work in a cold-case investigation, that led to the arrest and conviction of suspects involved in an armed pawn shop robbery in Scarborough six years ago, was presented as a case study at the Robbery Investigators Conference.
In February 2009, the Swap Shop, in the Lawrence Ave. E. and Victoria Park area, was help up by a pair of masked men armed with a handgun and a baseball bat. During the robbery, a struggle ensued and one of the employees was shot.
“The case went cold in 2010,” said Detective Steve Campoli, who partnered with Detective Steve Harris in the investigation. “It was then that we released surveillance video to help us zero in on Persons of Interest.”
In June 2013, two suspects were arrested and charged.
“This project was unique because, after we hit a roadblock, we just didn’t stop,” said Campoli. “We went back and revisited it and were successful. We worked as a team and persevered and that led to arrests and the recovery of a firearm and people were found guilty.”
Chief Mark Saunders welcomed delegates at the opening ceremony of the Nov. 17-19 conference that attracts investigators from across North America, underlining the importance of the work they do every day to stop armed robberies.
“The importance of solving these investigations is tremendously vital. It’s the fabric of what makes our city safe. Hold up investigators are second to none. You are the unsung heroes and I thank you for what you do. There is a different motivating factor to be a hold-up investigator.”
This is the first time in five years that Toronto Police has hosted the conference.
Hold Up Staff Inspector Mike Earl said the squad was formed 57 years ago in response to spate of violent bank robberies in Toronto committed by Quebec gangs.
“They would come here by train, armed with machine guns, and rob banks in a violent manner,” he said.
Retired Inspector Bill Bolton was the first TPS Hold Up unit commander.
“He had a team of 10 that dealt with about 60 bank robberies annually in the city in the late 1950s and 60s,” said Earl.
So far, in 2015, there have been 272 retail business robberies, 54 home invasions and 76 bank thefts in Toronto.