Toronto
2 min

Cops, drugs & the ‘hood

Residents and small business owners at Maitland and Church want kids to stop selling crack cocaine out of their backyards.



“I’ve received numerous calls from residents concerned about their safety and security,” says City Councillor Kyle Rae. “There is a real problem with crack heads on the street this summer.”



Rae alleges that there are two new crack houses on Maitland.



“We all know what goes along with drug traffic,” says Rae, “increased violence, harassment and theft.” He alleges there have already been two assaults of employees of a nearby business.



Dino Karageorgiou, owner of Church Street’s Wilde Oscars, says he went to police at 52 Division to ask for increased protection when his restaurant was robbed for a third time.



“I didn’t want to wait for someone to be killed for something to be done about the problem.”



According to Karageorgiou, police are planning to meet with him to discuss stepping up community policing next week.



Police did not return calls.



Rae says that more policing is a pressing need for the neighbourhood.



“I personally watched two middle-aged men pick up eight street youth to deal for them the other day…. At Church and Alexander I saw a customer pull up in a taxi and buy drugs [from the kids] right under my nose at noon,” claims Rae.



“There must be a perceived lack of police presence if these dealers feel comfortable trafficking in broad daylight.”



Uri Irga, executive director of Turning Point Youth Services, agrees there’s been increased activity from kids connected to drugs in the neighbourhood this summer.



But he says more cops won’t solve the problem.



“Policing is a very short term solution,” he says. “It may make people feel more secure in the short run, but in the long run the problem just continues underground or moves onto a nearby neighbourhood.”



Rae admits that part of the boost in trafficking on Maitland may have been caused by police pressure on drug dealers at Isabella and Yonge last year – who’ve simply shifted business a few blocks over.



“Long term solutions,” says Igra, “are much more tedious and costly, but they are long term. The real solution is finding a way to assist kids in reconnecting to their communities and helping them in finding some stability and developing meaningful relationships.



“We have to find a way to offer something that can outweigh the lure of the drugs and the apparently easy money.”



Turning Point offers youth counselling, psychiatric and rehab services, and assistance in finding employment and shelter.



“In my opinion, what helps any neighbourhood deal with unacceptable behaviour is taking ownership of the community rather than waiting for police or outside authority to scare the offenders away,” says Igra. “Put some more lights up, create a friendly atmosphere and communicate that unacceptable behaviour will be seen…. Shine light on the problem.”



Igra points to rejection as one of the primary factors that leads kids to the street and drugs in the first place.



“What do you do if you find out a kid is involved with drugs? What if it is your kid?” Igra asks. “The worst thing you can do for him is to kick him out of your home; the same is true for your community.”



Turning Point has a drop-in at 95 Wellesley St E or call (416) 925-9250.