Just a few days into their new Neighbourhood TAVIS Initiative (NTI) deployment in 51 Division, officers responded to a gun call on a busy downtown thoroughfare.
Two women, standing the middle of the street pointing what appeared to be guns at each other, were arrested without incident.
Police later discovered they were replica guns and the women were released without charges.
Others were not so fortunate.
In the first week since the initiative started on June 16, police made 18 arrests and laid 44 charges ranging from violating bail conditions to drug offences.
Inspector Rob Johnson said the Division was selected for the three-month summer initiative based on statistics over the last five years.
“The evidence showed that there were a disproportionate number of violent crimes committed in this area over that period,” he said. “The decision was made to go with us because of the data pointing to violent crimes, including homicides, sexual assaults and robberies.”
Comprising 24 constables, four sergeants and a staff sergeant, working from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m., the NTI covers Wellesley St. to Queen St. E. and Church St. to Parliament St.
All of the officers involved in the NTI are from 51 Division.
“The reason we did that is because, when this is finished in September and the guys come back to their platoons, we hope the connections they establish with the community will continue,” Johnson said. “To cover for the NTI officers, we have uniformed and non-uniformed members from 23, 54 and 12 Divisions who have taken their spots for the time they are on the special assignment.”
The NTI is a component of the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS), an intensive, violence-reduction and community-mobilization strategy intended to reduce crime and increase safety in neighbourhoods.
In addition to law enforcement, friendly interaction with the community is an essential part of the NTI.
I would like to think we are making some good inroads. People are approaching us and sharing information. Overall, they are happy we are here and they see us in a different light.
Constable Ryan Ladurantaye said the community is extremely open to the summer initiative.
“We have been engaging them and they seem to be happy we are out here,” he said. “I would like to think we are making some good inroads. People are approaching us and sharing information. Overall, they are happy we are here and they see us in a different light. They seem to feel a little bit more comfortable opening up to us on the some of the issues and problems they are having in regards to their neighbourhood. If this continues, I think it will be a very successful summer program.”
A key component of the initiative is the use of bicycles.
“In addition to helping us navigate traffic, the bikes allow us to stop and talk to people,” Ladurantaye added. “Members of the public can wave us over or flag us down and have a chat with us. This initiative is not solely about making arrests, it’s about being visible and starting and engaging in dialogue.”
Staff Sergeant Daniel Crosby said the bikes provide officers with the flexibility to patrol the laneways in the neighbourhood.
“We have cruisers driving through the streets, but we don’t necessarily get those officers in the back lanes and alleyways,” he said. “That seems to be a quality-of-life issue for people in this Division. There are real estate owners with wonderful property, but there are issues in the back lanes with drug-dealing and even graffiti spraying and they want our guys to deal with that.”
Kevin Wailoo, who co-owns a business in the community, welcomes the NTI presence.
“We see them on their bikes coming through here on a regular basis and they come into our establishment and let us know they are here for us,” he said. “Their mere presence, I think, will deter criminals who are thinking about committing criminal acts.”
Prior to going on the road, the NTI officers took part in a three-day training program at the college.
“We also had a virtual town hall meeting where we fielded calls on the issues that are of concern to the neighbourhood,” said Cosby. “Those who were unable to get through to us sent e-mails and our officers were assigned to deal with the complaints.”
The NTI ends on September 18.