July 22, 2023
As your City Councillor, I am committed to ensuring the well-being of our residents and the prosperity of our businesses.
Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that the safety and vandalism issues we are facing are unacceptable but not new. Sadly, these challenges are being experienced across all six of the downtown business improvement areas and are not localized solely to the Village. Even my own store in the St. Lawrence Market area has fallen prey to multiple incidents of window smashing.
To shed light on the severity of the situation, according to the Toronto Police Public Safety Data Portal, 53 break-and-enters have been reported in the Church Wellesley Village so far this year. This number shows a 65% increase from last year, however it is worth noting that it is down 39% from 2019, prior to the pandemic. Nevertheless, even a single incident is one too many, and I remain committed to addressing these issues.
After hearing the heartbreaking news last week that Dudley’s faced yet another break-and-enter, I convened an emergency meeting on Friday with the owner and staff from Dudley’s Hardware, the Business Improvement Area, the 519 Community Centre, the Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association, Progress Place, City of Toronto Corporate Security, Toronto Police 51 Division, as well as both the MPP’s and MP’s Office.
To tackle this problem, various city divisions and agencies are actively working to ensure the safety and well-being of our community. The Village has four dedicated Neighbourhood Community Officers who patrol the neighbourhood and Barbara Hall Park on a daily basis. Furthermore, the Toronto Police have consistently maintained a higher presence in our park compared to any other park in 51 Division, both proactively and reactively.
The Toronto Police have also demonstrated their commitment through quick arrests related to break-and-enter cases, showcasing their prioritization of this matter. Additionally, our parks staff diligently cleans the park on a daily basis, while parks ambassadors and here-to-help teams frequently visit the park to support vulnerable populations. The 519 and the BIA co-chair the Village Safety Network, which meets monthly and comprises stakeholders from various organizations and residents from the neighbourhood, are all working towards a safer environment.
The BIA has taken several proactive steps to improve safety, including the implementation of the Clean Streets Team Pilot Project and conducting CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) audits with the Toronto Police. Moreover, they have been closely collaborating with the City's SafeTO program to implement safe and inclusive streets strategies.
In my role as the Chair of the Board of Health, I co-hosted a mental health summit with Deputy Mayor McKelvie at the beginning of June. This crucial event convened health professionals, service agencies, and elected officials. While the Federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions was present, the absence of the Provincial Government was unfortunate. As a City, we made three specific requests: ongoing and sustainable funding for shelter services and supportive housing, the establishment of 24/7 mental health and substance use crisis centres, and the implementation of a provincial coordination protocol to enhance support for individuals experiencing mental health and/or substance use crises.
Moving forward, we have identified several suggested actions to address the safety and vandalism concerns within the Village. City responsibilities include increasing lighting in Barbara Hall Park, gating and closing the park at night, enforcing park closure with overnight corporate security, stationing an intervention team within the park, and removing the steps in front of The 519 Community Center.
Toronto Police are actively increasing overnight patrols in areas with high break-and-enter incidence, including in the Village. Additionally, The 519 and Toronto Police are collaborating to establish a detailed agreement that will enable the Toronto Police to enforce trespass to property overnight.
To ensure a comprehensive solution, I urge the provincial and federal governments to implement bail reform measures, invest in quicker hearings and bail supervision, and provide funding for supportive housing and mental health and addiction recovery services.
I’d like to thank everyone involved for making this a priority and showing up to our emergency meeting on Friday with short notice, especially to Steve and the staff at Dudley’s for sharing your experiences and trauma with us and for coming to the table with tangible solutions.
In closing, I want to assure you that your safety and the well-being of our community remain my top priority. Together, we will overcome these challenges and restore the sense of security and tranquillity that our Village and the neighbourhoods across Toronto Centre deserve.
If you have any concerns or suggestions, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office.
Ward 13 - Toronto Centre