TORONTO – Toronto police have laid hundreds of charges following a massive operation targeting a notorious gang, but questions remained about whether the raids were linked to Mayor Rob Ford’s alleged crack cocaine video.
A day after hundreds of officers stormed residences around the Greater Toronto Area and Windsor, police released details of their year-long investigation — named Project Traveller — which focused on the alleged activities of the Dixon City Bloods.
“They were a serious gang and a serious violent problem for us,” said Staff Supt. Jim Ramer. “We’re very confident with the arrests that we’ve made.”
One of the raids Thursday targeted an apartment complex where the alleged video appearing to show Ford smoking crack cocaine was reported to be located.
Police haven’t said if Ford was in any way part of their investigation, which is still ongoing. But they did say one of the 28 suspects arrested in the early-morning raids is facing a murder charge related to the shooting death of Anthony Smith, a Toronto man appearing in a photo with the mayor.
The Toronto Star, one of two media outlets that has viewed the alleged video, has said the same person who showed them the clip provided them with that picture.
Ford has said publicly that he does not use crack cocaine and the video does not exist.
The total number of people arrested in the investigation now stands at 43 and police said they expect to make more arrests.
“The vast majority of people within that community are good, hardworking, decent people…but the crime situation and the potential for violence hasn’t been completely eradicated,” said Deputy Chief Peter Sloly.
“This is all about creating safer neighbourhoods.”
One police initiative aimed at keeping the community free of gangs is an outreach program called Project Clean Slate, which is focused on working with Somali Canadians who live in the area where the gang operated.
Police also plan to boost their presence in the community.
Authorities said 300 serious offences charges have been laid, including murder, attempted murder and participation in a criminal organization. Dozens of firearms, cellphones, drugs, documents and about half a million in cash were seized.
Most of the firearms seized by police in the raids came into Canada from the U.S.
“Seventy per cent of the guns that are coming into this country are coming from across the border,” said Ramer, adding that U.S. authorities helped with the investigation.