Chief Addresses Board Meeting

By Ron Fanfair

Ron Fanfair

Writer/Photographer

Office of the Chief

The Toronto Police Service is laser-focused on keeping the city safe since the beginning of unrest in the Middle East five months ago and subsequent demonstrations across the city.

“We are public safety experts and we take our duty seriously,” Chief Myron Demkiw said at the Toronto Police Services Board meeting on March 18. “It should be recognized that policing public demonstrations in a free and democratic society is complex. We are now seeing a change in behaviour and tactics at demonstrations, causing us to re-evaluate our approach.”

Since October 7, police have made 24 protest-related arrests and laid 30 charges in response to threats, assaults and mischief.

On several occasions, officers have continued to investigate demonstration-related incidents following the event and laid charges weeks later.

“Such investigations are not uncommon and indeed some are open,” said Demkiw. “…Our frontline officers understand their authority to arrest demonstrators. We will not allow critical infrastructure or public spaces to be closed by demonstrators. We will enforce the law and we will continue to remain neutral during demonstrations, regardless of what is being protested. As tensions continue, we will continue to maintain the delicate balance between public safety and Freedom of Expression and the right to assembly.”

He said the cost to police demonstrations and other related events has exceeded $10 million.

Since October 7 when the unrest began in the Middle East, police has attended 989 Hate Crime Calls for service.

“Hate crime is up 93 per cent over the same period last year,” the Chief noted. “We have confirmed 203 hate crimes and we are attending an average of 157 hate crime calls for service a month. While we saw a reduction in calls for service for hate crimes in December and January, we have seen a significant increase in February, with a 67 per cent rise in calls. Of the 84 hate crimes so far in 2024, 56 per cent are anti-Semitic. Last month was the highest number of anti-Semitic occurrences in the last three years.”

Demkiw said there has also been an increase in hate-related graffiti, with 342 occurrences since October 7.

“As demonstrated by the number of arrests and charges, our Hate Crime Unit will continue to pursue incidents of hate-motivated behaviour firmly and fairly,” he said.

Chief Myron Demkiw also addressed the TPSB meeting on the 2024 budget, Project Resolute, the police response to shootings in the Driftwood community and the National Auto Theft Summit.

His full remarks:

Budget

I’d like to start by thanking the Board for your support in the recent budget process. And I also want to thank the members of the public, the Mayor, City Councillors, and the Toronto Police Association, for their support. I am most excited about the opportunity to collaborate with the Board and move forward with a multi-year hiring plan to strengthen our front line and address priority call response times. I say that I am excited because this provides an opening to inject certainty and stability into the budget process, thus supporting  public safety and the public’s sense of security.

Last month, we proudly deployed 146 new police officers to the front line. We also promoted 80 sergeants and 50 staff sergeants to ensure frontline guidance and oversight to support our members and improve core service delivery.

Every Monday my Command team takes a deep dive into our data. We review real time response times, crime indicators, length of calls and types of crimes. We adapt and deploy accordingly. It’s the reality of policing our complex and growing city while we reconstitute our capacity.

As you know, people-related costs account for 90% of our budget. Having more police officers to respond to the ever-increasing number of priority response calls for service, including those resulting from the dramatic increase in carjackings, is key. We want to be where Torontonians need us most, when they need us most. Our multi-year hiring plan will be at the core of our ability to police our growing city adequately and effectively.

We are an organization with 25% of our police officers eligible to retire right now. In 10 years, 60% of Toronto Police officers will be eligible to retire. Working with you on a multi-year hiring strategy is key to ensure service levels align with the city’s growth. We look forward to bringing on the recruit classes that have been approved in this budget.

Funding must be about service levels and public safety. Data driven decision-making is key to our strategy to work towards providing adequate and effective service. It took 10 years to get to where we are now and we know that we will not be able to get where we need to be, with one budget cycle.

The pressure on the Service and our members is palpable. I look forward to working with the Board to build an evidence-based approach to resourcing our Service in an adequate and effective way.

Project Resolute

Now I want to update you on Project Resolute. It has been 163 days since the Middle East crisis began, and the impact of the geopolitical unrest abroad continues to affect people worldwide, including in Canada and right here in Toronto. 

We are laser focused on the task at hand: Keeping the city safe.

Police are enforcing the law. Officers have made 24 protest-related arrests and laid 30 charges since October 7, in response to threats, assaults, and mischief. On a number of occasions, officers have continued to investigate demonstration-related incidents following the event and laid charges weeks later. Such investigations are not uncommon and indeed some are still open.

We are public safety experts and we take our duty seriously.

It should be recognized that policing public demonstrations in a free and democratic society is complex. We are now seeing a change in behavior and tactics at demonstrations, causing us to re-evaluate our approach.

Our front line officers understand their authority to arrest demonstrators.

We will not allow critical infrastructure or public spaces to be closed by demonstrators. We will enforce the law and we will continue to remain neutral during demonstrations, regardless of what is being protested.

As tensions continue, we will continue to maintain the delicate balance between public safety and Freedom of Expression and the right to assembly.

Project Resolute continues to be a large-scale operation. This includes regular engagement with the Jewish and Muslim communities. We are deploying additional resources to ensure the safety and security of places of worship,  schools, and other community facilities, and maintaining a Command Post in the Bathurst Street corridor.

We are increasing our presence in the Muslim community by deploying a Command Post on a rotational basis to mosques around the city every Friday and Saturday during Ramadan.

The Major Incident Command Centre continues to operate seven days a week to oversee citywide operations and ensure effective handling and coordination of Project Resolute, including demonstrations, as we work to provide a sense of safety and security for Torontonians.

The total cost for us to police these events and demonstrations now exceeds $10 million dollars.

Hate Crime Update

I want to give you an update on Hate Crimes Statistics.

Since October 7th we have attended 989 Hate Crime Calls for service. Hate  crime is up 93 % over the same period last year.

We have confirmed 203 hate crimes.

We are attending an average of 157 hate crime calls for service a month.

While we saw a reduction in calls for service for hate crimes in December and January, we have seen a significant increase in February, with a 67% rise in calls.

Of the 84 hate crimes so far in 2024, 56% are Anti-Semitic.

Last month was the highest number of anti-Semitic occurrences in the last three years.

The second highest bias category this year is 2SLGBTQI+ hate crimes, followed by anti-black.

These categories are followed by Anti-Muslim/Arab/Palestinian hate crimes. There only have been 5 this year, just 1 more over the same period last year.

While under reporting of all forms of hate crimes is a concern you have heard me speak about I also know from talking to people in the community that islamophobia is a significant concern, and given our statistics I am concerned  about significant under-reporting in this regard.

In response to this, we have added a second Muslim liaison officer, and increased our presence at mosques.

We are looking at new ways to improve access to reporting incidents of hate and continue to evolve our community engagement efforts.

Since October 7th, 2023, there have 203 hate crime occurrences resulting in 69 arrests and 173 charges related to hate crime occurrences.

  • Of those, the most common charges were mischief at 25%
  • Uttering threats at 17%
  • Assault at 16%

We continue to see Hate-Related Graffiti, with 342 occurrences since October 7.

As demonstrated by the number of arrests and charges, our Hate Crime Unit will continue to pursue incidents of hate-motivated behavior fairly and firmly. The unit is also conducting training at the Ontario Police College today and tomorrow.

Equity Strategy

Today we are pleased to be tabling our comprehensive Equity Strategy. The Service has been intentional about taking concrete steps towards reform. Through the development of the strategy, we will continue to actively work to address the concerns from, and build trust with all communities, including the Black, Indigenous, and 2SLGBTQI+ communities. We will continue to listen closely to the public and our members. We are adopting the recommendations provided by experts, and developing equity-based processes, and best practices.

31 Division Shooting Response

Now I want to talk to you about a recent spike in shootings in our city.

I am concerned about the numbers we are seeing in recent weeks and what that could signal for the summer.

On February 18, we moved a Command Post to the Driftwood Community centre after two innocent men were shot in that neighbourhood. The incidents are extremely concerning to residents of the impacted community, our entire city, and our police Service.

The community has shared with me that the Command Post is helping to restore a sense of calm.

In response to the shootings of those two men, one who lost his life, we also increased our patrols in the neighbourhood.

I met with community members in the days following these shootings to listen to them and hear their concerns, and to let them know that the full weight of the Toronto Police Service is working to bring those responsible to justice.

I can also advise that faith leaders have united together and support these efforts in this community.

Our officers will continue to engage with residents and faith leaders to build relationships.

We have previously seen the power of prayer walks in communities impacted by gun violence, including how they can help build trust and restore a sense of safety and security. At the end of February, I joined faith leaders, residents, and Service members for a prayer walk in the Driftwood community and will participate in a city-wide multi-faith prayer walk on April 11.

You will see more Service-wide prayer walks across the city, where Unit Commanders and Neighborhood Officers will join faith leaders and go into their communities together.

Auto Theft Summit

Last month, Deputy Johnson and I attended the National Auto Theft Summit in Ottawa, hosted by the federal government to bring law enforcement and public and private sector leaders together.

I spoke about how Toronto has been disproportionately impacted, with more than 12,000 vehicles stolen last year alone. Those vehicles are valued at $790 million dollars.

That’s 34 vehicles stolen every day.

1 every 40 minutes.

We have had 68 Car-jackings so far 2024. That’s a 106% increase compared to the same period last year.

In January, a mother with two children in car seats had her vehicle stolen in a grocery store parking lot. Two young offenders drove those children around for 15 minutes. The children are safe now but this terrorizing criminal activity has to stop.

It leaves people feeling anxious and afraid and victimized while organized criminals profit.

Break and enters for auto thefts continue to rise.

There have been 34 incidents so far this year compared to 22 for all of last year.

We are putting a significant amount of resources to address this city wide.

We have seen an escalation of violence, threats and intimidation, where weapons are being used to steal vehicles.

This is why it is important we are co-leading Provincial Carjacking Joint Task Force, with the OPP. 

The Task Force is an example of how working together with other agencies, helps us in these complex investigations to disrupt this criminal element.

As of March 15, the Task Force has arrested 121 suspects, laid 730 charges and recovered 157 stolen vehicles.

We are also launching Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) readers into our in car camera system automatically read and search for stolen plates. The ALPR can read plates of vehicles travelling up to 230 km an hour.

This will support road safety, enhance frontline efficiency, and will help investigators with an electronic eye on the road.

At the Auto Theft Summit in Ottawa, I explained that this is not just a law enforcement problem.

It’s time to be bold and collaborate with all levels of government along with vehicle manufacturers, port authorities and shipping companies.

We need to work in a coordinated manner, to fight organized crime, stop the violence and take the profit out of this organized criminal enterprise.

We need manufacturers to better protect vehicles from being stolen, and co-operate with investigators to track stolen vehicles so we can catch offenders quickly and return vehicles to their owners.

The Toronto Police Service is one of five police services in Project Vector, which focuses focus on identifying the shipping ports used by Organized Crime to export the stolen vehicles.  Once the vehicles are located, the service forensically examine them and researches the history of how the vehicle ended up in a shipping container.  The investigation is then shared among the five services with the focus on actionable intelligence.  We also share this information with our Organized Crime Investigative Support Unit and the Provincial Carjacking Task Force.

Just this past weekend the Organized Crime Investigative Support Unit used intelligence to recover 9 stolen vehicles worth more than $600,000. This success story is thanks to the Provincial Government’s “Prevent Auto Theft Grant.”

I also want to make you aware that Deputy Johnson also had the opportunity to appear before the Public Safety and National Security Committee last month to amplify the impact organized crime-related vehicle theft has on Toronto.

Thank you to Members

As I mentioned earlier in my remarks and as you have heard throughout this update, the pressure on the Service and our members is palpable. I want to take a moment to thank our members for their outstanding work to keep our communities safe. They are incredibly skilled, capable and courageous, as exemplified last Tuesday. Members of 51 division apprehended a suspect in a double homicide who is now facing murder charges.

 I visited one of them, a very dedicated Toronto Police officer, in hospital who was injured during the foot pursuit. He was in pain but had a positive and professional attitude as he was awaiting treatment.

There is a lot of outstanding work the public never sees.

We are trying to capture this work and show our appreciation to our members.

Another example is the recent rescue of a missing elderly Alzheimer patient who vanished on a very cold night. We are committed to celebrating and highlighting good work. I’d like to show you the first in a series of videos that does just that.

Have a look at what happened when a Toronto man reported his wife missing:

This video was done by our internal video team and is an excellent example of technology and field operations coming together to preserve a life. It’s just one example of the phenomenal work our members do each and every day.

In closing, I want to wish our Islamic communities Ramadan Mubarik. I want to assure all our communities that we remain committed to them for as long as it takes to return the sense of safety and security for all.

Thank you.

 

 

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