Project Traveller raids see Toronto gang 'significantly downgraded': police
Police say major elements of a Toronto gang have been taken out after a massive police operation saw dozens of people arrested and more than 300 charges laid.
A total of 28 suspects were arrested in the Greater Toronto and Windsor areas during the early-morning raids on Thursday – part of a project dubbed Project Traveller.
Police said 43 people have been arrested since the investigation started last June in connection with a number of crimes, including murder, attempted murder, firearm-trafficking and drug-trafficking.
During a news conference Friday morning, officers from Toronto’s 23 Division told reporters that major components of a Dixon Road gang have been “downgraded” following raids in the neighbourhood.
“Dixon Road was being victimized by a gang,” Deputy Chief Peter Sloly said. “Many members of that gang are now before the courts. That gang has been significantly downgraded.”
Police have now launched “Project Clean Slate,” which involves establishing a police presence in the neighbourhood, as well as community and youth outreach initiatives to make sure another gang does not establish itself in the neighbourhood.
“We’re not doing this alone … we’re doing this with the community,” Sloly said, adding more arrests are likely to come. “The vast majority of the people in that community are good, hard-working people.”
Supt. Ron Taverner said officers in the community will partner with a Somali liaison unit to work with the Somali community in the area.
“These officers will work to create meaningful dialogue, building on trust and the relationships that they’ve build within the Somali community to date,” he said.
A police command post will remain in the neighbourhood for at least another 72 hours.
Officers from multiple jurisdictions were involved in Project Traveller, including officers from Peel, York, Halton, Durham, the RCMP and the Ontario Provincial Police.
A total of 40 firearms were seized Thursday, along with $572,000 in cash and $3 million of dollars’ worth of narcotics, police said. Many of the firearms came into Canada from the U.S.
As part of the operation, police raided at least one suite inside an apartment building at 320 Dixon Rd., which has been in the news lately because of the drug allegations against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. According to recent reports, the apartment building is where the alleged crack video was stored.
During Friday’s news conference, police confirmed that arrests made during the course of the year-long Project Traveller investigation are in relation to the murder of Toronto resident Anthony Smith.
Smith was shot dead outside a downtown Toronto nightclub on March 28. Even before Thursday’s raids, police had arrested two suspects in connection with his death.
Smith’s death had made national news earlier this year after he was linked to Mayor Ford. Smith and Ford were pictured together in a widely circulated photograph, alongside two other men.
On Thursday, police raided the home of one of those two other men.
Officers were seen leaving an address on Mercury Road Thursday morning with what appeared to be evidence bags. The man from the photo was one of 35 suspects from the raids who were taken to a Finch Avenue courthouse for their first court appearance.
Toronto Police were probing existence of alleged drug video
CTV News reported Thursday that Toronto Police were investigating the existence of an alleged video involving Ford several weeks before the story first appeared in the Toronto Star.
As part of the investigation leading up to the raids Thursday, officers obtained telephone wire-tap evidence.
A highly-placed source confirmed to CTV News that on those wiretaps, persons of interest discussed that video in detail, and referred to the mayor's alleged presence in the video.
CTV News has not seen the video, and cannot confirm its existence or authenticity.
The video purports to show the mayor smoking from what appears to be a crack pipe. Mayor Ford has publicly denied using crack cocaine, and has repeatedly questioned the existence of the video.
During a press conference Thursday, Blair refused to confirm or comment on the CTV News report, saying it would be irresponsible to do so.
As the mayor arrived at City Hall Thursday, he said he knew nothing about the raids and hadn’t been given advance notice about the operation.