Clearing Common Ground

By Kevin Masterman, Toronto Police Service Published: 6 p.m. February 28, 2017
Updated: 10:53 a.m. March 7, 2017

Community Response Officers fanned out to buildings across the city where there has been a spike in violence, to ensure there are no weapons or drugs stashed in common areas of the properties including parking garages, alcoves and outdoor spaces.

A man in TPS uniform holding a flashlight on a set of stairs
Constable Chris Terzopoulos checks the ceiling of a building stairwell for hidden weapons

“We’re patrolling these buildings regularly. We’re always looking in common areas, sometimes we’re focused on that specific initiative, other times just as a police presence,” says 23 Division Sgt. Jodi Mitchell. “We’ve had a lot of luck in finding drugs, weapons, ammunition in common areas in areas you would not expect but all in common areas accessible to the public.”

Across the city, officers found four knives and over 83 grams of power cocaine, 35 grams of crack cocaine as well as small amounts of marijuana, hashish and MDMA. They also found property officers believe came from a break-and-enter.

Some of the officers who searched through several buildings in 23 Division have found bulletproof vests, drugs and ammunition as well as firearms in past searches.

“We know why the individuals are doing this in order to distance themselves from the weapon. They know where it is – no one else knows where it is. And that way, if we have information that an individual has a firearm on them and we decide to do a search warrant at their residence, the firearm is close to where they live so they have access to it,” Mitchell says, noting that sometimes these guns are stashed for use by multiple people – heightening the risk.

“These are crime guns, being used by drug traffickers, gang members. It’s easy access if they have to use the firearm and they have a hidden spot and once they’ve committed a crime, they can dump the firearm at that location.”

She says it’s a great value for officers to be patrolling the buildings on a daily basis.

Men in police uniform going through a doorway
Officers searched ascend a stairwell after searching a parking garage for weapons

“The public wants us in these locations. They like to see us walking around. They’re happy to see us. We’re hoping that by being there on a constant basis we can build that rapport with people who live in those neighbourhoods and maybe build a level of trust where they’re willing to tell us information we don’t know.”

In 31 Division, officers were greeted warmly by residents.

 “We are glad you are here and keep up the good work,” an elderly resident, who didn’t want to be identified, told Constable Brian Sutherland. He was among the officers searching four buildings in the Division.

“We chose those particular areas because our Neighbourhood Officers have a relationship with members of the community that’s experiencing an increase in gun violence,” said Sergeant Michelle Masters. “We want residents to feel safe.”

A similar initiative, done four years, ago resulted in the seizure of weapons, ammunition and drugs in several Toronto Community Housing locations.

“The buildings that we are going to today are a bit problematic with unacceptable levels of violence,” said Superintendent Tony Riviere. “Our intelligence tells us that some of the individuals committing criminal activities place their firearms and drugs in common areas of complexes where they reside or frequent. Our officers are going to search every nook and cranny to ensure that illegal weapons or drugs are not hidden in them.”


A man in TPS uniform opens a metal cabinet
Constable Trevor Merza checks a utility cabinet for contraband
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