TORONTO – Police arrested 43 people and seized millions of dollars in drugs in Toronto and across Ontario in a series of early morning raids targeting guns and drugs, as part of a year-long investigation dubbed “Project Traveller.”
The raids began just before sunrise on Thursday. More than 100 Toronto police officers as well as police forces in Halton, Durham, Peel, York and Windsor conducted 39 warrants.
All of the warrants in Toronto were conducted without incident.
Police also conducted a raid at 320 Dixon Road, near Kipling Road and Islington Avenue.
The Dixon Road raid is purported to be the location linked to a video that was shot allegedly showing someone matching Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s appearance smoking what could be crack cocaine.
The mayor has previously called the allegations “ridiculous,” and Councillor Doug Ford said the mayor told him the allegations were “untrue.”
Watch: Jackson Proskow report on Dixon Road raid and ties to alleged Rob Ford Video
One resident in the Dixon Road apartment building said her aunt was taken into custody during the raid.
“I went to her house and she was in handcuffs for no reason,” said Amber Gasla. “The officers said the only reason this is happening is because of Rob Ford.”
During a noon press conference at Toronto Police Headquarters, Police Chief Bill Blair refused to comment on a number of questions from reporters about any connection between the mayor and the raids.
While police sometimes showcase weapons and money seized during raids, police refused to do the same for the evidence seized during Project Traveller.
Blair said talking about any evidence seized during the raids could jeopardize the investigation. Instead, he said all the evidence would become public when and if the investigation goes to court.
Meanwhile, during a scrum with media at Toronto City Hall Thursday morning, Ford said he was unaware of the raids because his “cable was out” at home. He also stated he was not briefed by the chief of police – which Blair confirmed at a noon press conference.
“Police do their work all the time, police can’t come and call me all the time and say we’re doing this and that, they got their business to do,” Ford said.
“It’s like me calling the police and telling them about what’s going on in council every day. People have their jobs and I support the police 100 per cent.”
Police said raids were targeted at a street gang known as the “Dixon Bloods” or “Dixon Goonies” who, Blair said, are involved in numerous alleged crimes including attempted murder, murder and the trafficking and possession of guns and firearms in Toronto and other cities in Ontario.
Toronto Police Deputy Chief Mark Saunders said a total of 43 people were arrested in the morning raids – 19 of whom were arrested in Toronto.
Chief Blair said he is expecting more arrests.
Police also seized 40 firearms, $572,000 in cash and upwards of $3 million in narcotics including cocaine, heroin and hashish.
Blair said there will be another press conference to release further details Friday morning.
Follow a LIVEBLOG of reporters Mark Carcasole and Jackson Proskow on the raids at 320 Dixon Road.