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Robberies on increase, say police

Panel talks about how to protect yourself

PROTECT YOURSELF AT ALL TIMES. Insp Heinz Kuck advised a workshop on crime and violence on how to minimize the chances of being robbed. Credit: (Jenna Wakani)

The intersection of Church and Wellesley is a prime place to be robbed, police told a recent community workshop.

At the workshop on crime and violence Supt Kimberley Greenwood of 51 Division told the audience that the intersection, the alley joining Alexander and Mait-land streets and the intersection at Yonge and Carlton streets were considered “hot spots” within the division, with increased numbers of robberies against individuals.

“Robbery is theft where there is some form of violence,” Greenwood said. “We noticed there was just a little bit of a spike in the robberies that are occurring around Church St, which was the motivation for this meeting.”

Greenwood presented statistics showing that robberies in the division tend to be at their highest on Sundays, with almost as many taking place on Tuesdays through Thursdays. The crimes peak between 9pm and 3am.

“Those are times when the robbers feel the victims are most vulnerable,” said Greenwood.

Insp Heinz Kuck of 51 Division said there weren’t a tremendous number of robberies, but that people needed to be aware.

“It’s not that robberies are a huge occurrence,” he said. “It’s a small emerging trend that we want to stop as an absolute.”

The workshop, held at Ryerson University on Aug 11, looked at crime in the gay village and against queers in Toronto and what people could do to protect themselves. Besides police officers there was a representative from Crime Stoppers talking about how to anonymously provide information to police.

Kuck also provided tips on how people can protect themselves against robbers. He said there are three options: fight, flight or compliance.

Kuck said that it was up to each person to decide which option to pursue and whether to physically fight back, but he recommended against carrying weapons.

“Conventional weapons — knives, batons, pepper spray — can be taken away and used against you.”

Kuck suggested shouting or using noisemaking devices such as whistles as another way of fighting back.

“You’re creating other witnesses, which is one of the fears of the offender,” he said. “You can use a whistle as a weapon, blow it in the ear of the offender and you can damage the eardrum.”

Kuck also suggested that if a person decides to comply there are ways to avoid losing all your belongings. He said not to keep everything in one place but to spread money and ID out over the body. He also suggested creating a fake money clip with a five-dollar bill over a stack of fake bills, and attached by a paper clip.

“You can throw it in one direction and run like hell in the other direction.”

But Kuck said the best protection is to avoid risky situations in the first place. He said to use a buddy system where possible, travel in well-populated areas, walk confidently and make brief eye contact with people you pass.

Const Tom Decker, the force’s queer liaison officer, said the community also needs to address hate crimes, even if victims are unwilling to deal directly with the police. He says police and the community are learning to trust each other, but he understands why some people might still hesitate to deal directly with cops.

“Thank god for the new philosophy in policing,” he said. “But our community doesn’t need to be mobilized. We don’t need a physiotherapist. We’ve been neglected for years and years. Our community, sometimes for all the right reasons, is still reluctant to report to police, whether it be fear of secondary victimization or having been ridiculed by police in the past.”

Decker said victims could report attacks anonymously to agencies like Crime Stoppers, the LGBT Youth Line or the 519 Community Centre’s Anti-Violence program.