In 2017, The Toronto Crime Stoppers program will be taking aim at the increasing number of firearms in the possession of criminals as well as human trafficking that forces young people into the sex trade.
“Those are our priorities,” said now-retired Staff Superintendent and Crime Stoppers Board Chair Gary Grant at the launch of this year’s program on January 5 at Toronto Police headquarters.
There were 40 gun-related homicides in the city last year. That was a 54 per cent increase from 2015.
“The continuing amount of guns that are being used, displayed and found, creating havoc and fear in communities, have to be stopped,” said Grant. “As always, we will pay cash rewards for those who are found committing crimes, using guns and possessing guns. We will also pay a reward for just getting a gun off the street.”
Last year, the Toronto Police Service Human Trafficking Enforcement team was an integral part of a collaborative multi-jurisdictional human trafficking investigation that led to several arrests.
“Too many young women and men are led into lives of tragedy and lives of basically slavery at the hands of those who use and abuse them and it’s time that we took up the cause at Toronto Crime Stoppers,” said Grant, asking the public to make police aware of human trafficking. “We want to work and raise public awareness in the community about this heinous crime.”
Toronto Crime Stoppers has partnered with advertising agency DDB Canada on a campaign that will highlight the perils and victimization of human trafficking.
“We are starting on it today,” said Krisztina Virag, an account director at DBD Canada since June 2016. “I can’t divulge at this time what we are doing, but we are all very excited.”
She said the campaign will be rolled out in either late spring or early summer this year.
Last year, police fielded 9,243 tips that led to 116 arrests and 357 charges. A total of $541,478 in property was recovered and $375,693 in drugs seized.
“Toronto Crime Stoppers is an absolutely brilliant example of Toronto police embracing partnerships that continue to make Toronto the best and safest place to be,” said Acting Deputy Chief Rick Stubbings.
The Toronto Crime Stoppers program was launched in 1984, after then-Chief Jack Marks asked Grant – a sergeant at the time – to start the initiative.
The program is supported by funds accrued from the annual Crime Stoppers Chief of Police gala started 21 years ago and the Toronto Police Crime Stoppers charity golf tournament.
For the first time ever, a Division and officer were the 2016 co-recipients of the Bill Hancox Memorial Award, presented annually at the Chief of Police fundraising dinner.
Constable Chris Garcia and 42 Division, where he has been assigned since joining the Service nearly seven years ago, won the award presented to a Toronto Police Service unit that makes full use of the Crime Stoppers program to help solve crimes and enhance the community’s safety and security.
An exception was made for the first time, as Garcia utilized a tip last year to effect an arrest and, in the process, enhance the safety of the victim.
Detective Sergeant Gerry Heaney, the 42 Division crime manager, effectively used the Crime Stoppers program for two separate crime re-enactments, including a public service announcement for robberies on Toronto Transit Commission routes and residential nighttime break-and-enters.
“Crime Stoppers is not only about solving crimes, but also about preventing crimes and some members of the police service get that more than others,” said Grant. “42 Division and its officers truly get it.”
Since the program’s inception in the city 33 years ago, police have received over 133,000 tips that have led to almost 11,000 arrests, approximately 37,000 charges, the recovery of nearly $63 million in property and the seizure of about $330 million in drugs.
Crime Stoppers is the brainchild of Canadian-born Greg MacAleese, who was an officer with the Albuquerque Police Department in New Mexico. After running out of leads in a homicide investigation, the frustrated cop turned to the public for assistance in 1976.
He produced the first crime re-enactment that was aired on local television and made available to other media outlets and promised that anyone providing information leading to an arrest would be eligible for a cash reward.
Within hours of the broadcast, police received a tip that led to the arrest of two suspects who were charged with murder. They were sentenced to life terms with no chance of parole.
Toronto, which implemented the initiative in 1984, has one of the largest programs in the world. There are close to 1,300 Crime Stoppers programs in nearly 20 countries.
Anyone with information about a crime that has occurred, or is about to occur, can contact Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at 222tips.com, text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637) or Leave A Tip on Facebook.