“We have to report it”
After a series of violent incidents in the Church and Wellesley area this month, a local city councillor is advising students to stay alert.
“I think they (students) need to make sure that they watch where they’re going,” Ward 27 councillor, Kristyn Wong-Tam, told the Ryersonian. “I think that it would be smart on their part to pay attention to what’s happening around them.
Wong-Tam said the city has seen an “escalation” in crime-related incidents in the Church and Wellesley area.
Between Oct. 16 and Oct. 22, there were 11 crime-related incidents reported in the Church-Yonge Corridor, according to Toronto Police Service’s weekly major crime indicators. This includes everything from robbery, auto theft and assault, to breaking and entering.
Church and Wellesley is just minutes away from Ryerson, and there is the concern that violent incidents could spread onto campus.
“We have to ensure that we step up and speak out when we see something,” Wong-Tam said. “We have to report it.”
On Oct. 13, Steve Dawson, a former Ryerson student and owner of Dudley’s Hardware, had his life threatened by an individual in a mask, who damaged merchandise inside the store.
“He showed me his knife,” Dawson said. “He threatened to mess me up and come back and smash the windows, you know, everything that I have, and to kill me if he had to.”
Police arrested the individual soon after the incident. But on Oct. 20, the alarm went off at Dawson’s store as a result of its front windows being smashed.
Dawson said two witnesses came forward and identified the suspect as the same one who confronted him on Oct. 13.
A lot of students from Ryerson come by to get supplies for their projects because they’re a hardware store, Dawson said.
Dawson said he spotted the same individual on Oct. 26 nearby his store again.
“Nobody’s safe,” Dawson said.
“The community is feeling very frustrated”
On Friday, Wong-Tam met with the Church-Wellesley Village BIA, the Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association, the 519, Progress Place, parks staff, mayor’s staff and 51 Division police officers to discuss safety within the area.
Supervisors at 51 Division will begin deploying four neighbourhood officers to the Church-Wellesley Village and St. James Town starting Nov. 6.
Earlier this year, Toronto police deployed six additional foot patrol officers from 51 Division. But the six-week program, which started in August, has come to an end.
Three community safety meetings and four safety walks were held in the area over the past 10 months, where residents and business owners shared their concerns for the neighbourhood.
Wong-Tam meets with Ryerson once a month to discuss a number of issues, including campus security and safety, which she said “has been on the table over the past few months.”
Public affairs manager of Ryerson, Johanna VanderMaas, said in an email: “While the security of our students, faculty and staff is always a top concern for the university, we cannot offer comment on the safety of other neighbourhoods that are not our own.”
Wong-Tam said individuals who are arrested by police for assault or theft are charged with a crime and then they’re back out onto the street again within 24 hours.
“The community is feeling very frustrated,” Wong-Tam said.
Wong-Tam said she hopes Toronto police will revisit her proposal in January for a pilot project that would include a satellite police station to heighten police presence in the Church and Wellesley area.
Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) president Susanne Nyaga said it’s concerning that such crime-related incidents are taking place so close to campus and recommends walking with a friend at night, rather than walking alone.
“Try to take somebody to walk home with you or budget for a cab,” Nyaga said. “It might be a 15-minute walk and super close by, but if you know you’re going through an unsafe neighbourhood, it’s definitely worth that $10 or $15 to just hop in a cab and get there in a safer manner.