Dozens of Toronto’s criminal elite were seen exiting the Milliken Park Community Recreation Centre last Wednesday evening. The group met just south of the Steeles Avenue border to discuss the possibility of mounting a major crime spree in York Region. For some months, this secretive “criminal task force” has been studying GTA population and police statistics. In a recent report, the group concluded that on a per capita basis, there are “like wayyyyy” fewer police in York Region than in the City of Toronto.
There was a time, when York Region was little more than a sleepy collection of suburbs and bedroom communities, however, over the the past decade, the region has borne the brunt of development in the GTA. Thousands upon thousands of hectares of farmland have been paved over with low-density, high-income monster homes. SmartCentres and big box stores abound with willing customers and bulging cash registers (and sometimes vice-versa). Now, despite a population of a million plus people, York Region is still served by a dedicated, but small police force of about 1400 officers — a force that is just 65% as large as Metro’s Finest on a per capita basis.
The York Region Police presence also varies widely by district, with Georgina having a per capita force that is comparable with Toronto’s. Not surprisingly, York’s southern municipalities — which have grown the fastest — seem to have considerably fewer police on the ground. According to the YRP website, Markham, with a population of some 300,000 people, is served and protected by just 186 sworn police officers or 62 officers per 100,000 residents. In contrast, Toronto is swarming with 214 officers per 100,000 people — more than three times Markham’s police power.
“I can’t really say why there are so few police officers north of Steeles Avenue”, said one Markham councillor after voting with colleagues to expand development into the Markham foodbelt, ” but we’re extremely lucky to have both a wonderful police force and such wonderful, law-abiding residents.”
But some criminals seem to think the odds are in their favour. That sector appears to have kicked their activities up a notch over the past few years. Grow-ops are commonplace. Dealers have been seen lurking in parked cars or peddling their wares on bicycle at all hours of the night. Was that a car backfiring or a gunshot? We just don’t know, do we? We just don’t know!
Except we do know that residents shouldn’t fear for the future. York Region is rapidly expanding the force — though of course we’ll pay for for that also.
Besides, many have discovered first-hand that a high percentage Toronto’s criminal “elite” are about as smart as a bag of hammers. Said one VIVA Transit enforcement officer holding a would-be thief by the collar, “It’s hard not to laugh when a punk like this snags an iPhone and then fumbles trying to validate a VIVA ticket before we catch ‘em”.