Toronto police say some of the guns seized in an investigation targeting the notorious Five Point Generalz street gang, which involved the alleged smuggling of weapons from across the border, resemble multi-coloured water pistols that now have law enforcement officials on edge.
“That was a first for me to see that and it’s very concerning,” Deputy Chief Jim Ramer said during a press conference at Toronto police headquarters Friday morning.
“When I first saw it, I commented that the one in orange looked like a water pistol that my granddaughter has and how easily that can be misinterpreted by someone looking at them.”
Investigators said those multi-coloured weapons can pose a significant safety risk for front-line officers and the public if they can’t distinguish between whether they are fake or real.
“As a result of these multi-coloured receivers, many of which look like toys, we will be sending out an officer safety bulletin because many of these guns, if they were to be pointed at a police officer, they can very easily conclude that either a toy gun or a water pistol for that matter as being pointed at them,” Acting Insp. Don Belanger said.
The gun seizures were part of a nine-month investigation called Project Patton that resulted in the arrests of 75 people and over 1,000 charges laid.
Police said 53 search warrants were carried out around 5 a.m. Thursday in the Greater Toronto Area, including Toronto, Durham, York and Peel Region. Authorities said more than 800 officers from various police departments took part in the early morning raids.
VIDEO: Toronto Police announce massive crackdown on Five Point Generals gang
Investigators said among those arrested were two young people under the age of 18.
“The individuals arrested in this operation are not simply kids being exploited by gang members, nor are they addicts being used to support their addictions,” Belanger said.
“They are organized criminals, a significant number of whom who are no strangers to the criminal justice system.”
Chief Mark Saunders said on Thursday that the street gang, which has been operating in the west end of the city for more than a decade, has been dealt a significant blow as a result of the arrests.
“We allege the Five Point Generalz are a dangerous street gang that, while having roots in the area surrounding Weston Road and Lawrence Avenue West, its criminal activities extended throughout Toronto and the GTA, and Canada, the United States as well as in the Caribbean,” Saunders said.
“Our investigators are confident that Project Patton has effectively disrupted and dealt a significant blow to the hierarchy and operations of the Five Point Generalz.”
Police said that during the course of their investigation, officers managed to obtain 60 handguns during a single seizure linked to a sophisticated smuggling operation.
“The individual obtained the guns in Cornwall, was en route back to Toronto, when he was taken down by our major projects team in our firearms enforcement unit,” Belanger said.
“We were subsequently able to identify the alleged gun suppliers, who had purchased the firearms in the state of Florida.”
Belanger said Florida is not traditionally a source for smuggled guns, at least not those arriving on Toronto streets.
“Although it was a sophisticated operation, we feel that we’ve shut it down in its early stages,” he said.
“These guns can be purchased in Florida for approximately US$500 and a gun like this will sell on the streets of Toronto for approximately $4,000.”
VIDEO: Five Points Generals gang had international footprint
Investigators said the guns were destined for the streets of Toronto and the GTA to be used by members of the Five Point Generalz.
“When sold at the street level in Toronto, it’s estimated these 60 guns would generate profits of around $200,000,” Belanger said.
In addition to the gun seizures, police said they also obtained large quantities of illicit drugs such as cocaine, fentanyl, carfentanil, heroin and marijuana. Police said the quantity of narcotics had the potential to generate $1.2 million in profits.
The street gang arrests follow a series a violent gun play and homicides across the city in recent weeks. In once such incident, it resulted with two young girls being hospitalized after they were both shot at a playground in Scarborough.
“When we look at the numbers, the numbers are indicating that really we have five more gun occurrences a month, for this year, compared to last year. That’s not a tremendous increase but it is still moving in the wrong direction,” Saunders said Thursday.
Saunders said street gang activity plays a major role in the proliferation of gun violence in the city and making arrests is just one step to ensuring communities are safe.
Police said the Five Point Generalz street gang was previously targeted in 2010 in an investigation called Project Corral.
“I can tell you that 13 individuals arrested in Project Corral were arrested as part of Project Patton. I can also tell you that 68 of the accused persons had prior criminal records,” Belanger said.
Investigators also said prior murders and attempted murder cases also led police to the street gang.
“We had intelligence which we felt was legitimate concrete intelligence that told us that this group was involved in those activities,” Belanger said.
“I will not get into specifics as to exactly which incidents, because they are still under investigation.”
Deputy Chief Ramer said they are confident the highest ranking members of the gang have been arrested.
“The removal of such a significant number of violent individuals from our communities will be a very positive for the law abiding community members who have been forced to live amongst individuals who are believed to be gunmen and drug dealers, many of whom have displayed a total disregard for community safety.”
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