May 12, 2004
A major dent has been made in the continuing fight against street gangs in Toronto after hundreds of firearms and drugs charges were laid in Ontario against 75 individuals in the sweeping ''guns-and-gangs'' bust that involved the use of new federal legislation aimed at dismantling organized crime.
The pre-dawn raids on Wednesday at 59 businesses, storage locations, residences and detention facilities in Toronto and surrounding Barrie and Durham, Peel and York regions involved hundreds of police acting on 71 search warrants, Toronto police Chief Julian Fantino told a news conference.
''The problem of street gangs is so serious, their malignant impact so damaging to the communities they seek to destroy, we felt we had no choice but to adopt a new intelligence-led enforcement approach, and one integrated with our partners in law enforcement,'' Fantino said.
The chief didn't say whether further arrests or charges in connection with the raids are imminent.
More than 500 criminal charges were laid, including participating in a criminal organization, conspiracy to import prohibited firearms, possession of prohibited weapons for trafficking purposes, conspiracy to traffic in cocaine, and possession of proceeds of crime. Those charged are all in their 20s.
Police recovered 28 firearms and drugs including large quantities of ecstasy, marijuana, cocaine and hashish.
The raids were the culmination of 14 months of work by Toronto and regional police, as well as provincial police, RCMP and Canada Customs in an operation known as Project Impact.
Fantino said it's one of the first times that police have used new legislation directed at organized crime.
''We believe this new tool will be effective in dismantling street gangs now and in the future,'' he said. ''It allows us to target the leaders, those who direct and initiate gang activities, but who normally insulate themselves from them, and sentences imposed for the offences shall be served concurrently upon conviction.''
Monte Kwinter, Ontario's minister of community safety and correctional services, said the crackdown on street gangs isn't over yet.
''I really appreciate the efforts that went into this 14-month investigation - and it's a multi-task investigation and it's ongoing,'' Kwinter said.
The gangs were working out of the Malvern area of Scarborough, east of Toronto.
A community meeting was set to be held Wednesday night to discuss the problems in the area.
There have been 19 murders in Toronto this year, 12 have been gun related.