Former Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman was widely ridiculed when he called in the army following a series of debilitating snow storms in 1999. After watching the largely negative reaction Lastman’s initiative received, most thought the armed forces wouldn’t be called back to the city barring an unlikely invasion or terror attack.
But York West councillor Giorgio Mammoliti wants something done about the gun-toting gangsters that are terrorizing his ward, and he doesn’t apologize about his recent remarks concerning bringing the military into the neighbourhood, not to clear snow, but to clear the streets of dangerous criminals.
Mammoliti contends neither the city nor Toronto Police have what it takes to deal with the gang activity and resulting bloodshed. He wants to see an end to it by any means possible. The councillor was especially riled up after Wednesday’s arrest of a suspect in connection to a gun battle that broke out near Jane St. and Sheppard Ave.
Amazingly no one was hurt, but city workers narrowly escaped being struck when a bullet hit the front end of their truck.
School children were heading to class at the time and could easily have been caught in the crossfire.
Mammoliti believes the army could make a real impact in the area.
“The army can come in here and deal with things this way they feel they need to be done and they got a whole new set of rules,” he asserts. “And I know this community would want to see that happen. We know who the gang members are and it’s time that we deal with them the same way we’d deal with anyone else that comes in with arms and takes over communities.”
Not surprisingly, Toronto’s Police Chief is condemning the idea. Bill Blair has released a statement professing faith in his men and women, accusing the councillor of not “knowing the facts”.
“Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti’s comments do a disservice to the men and women of the Toronto Police Service and to the citizens of Toronto,” he writes. “The anti-violence strategies of the Toronto Police Service, together with the cooperation and commitment of the residents of communities affected by violence, have in fact led to an increase in the number of arrests in such incidents.
“It is unfortunate that Mr. Mammoliti chose to make the remarks he did without knowing the facts. I want the members of the Toronto Police Service to rest assured that I, and the majority of Torontonians, continue to appreciate their efforts.”
Located in northwest Toronto, York West is bounded by the Humber River to the west, Steeles Ave. West to the north, Jane St. to the east and Highway 401 to the south. Area residents were mixed on whether the presence of the military would make a difference.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea because I think it will create more problems,” one woman said. “They might retaliate by trying to, you know, win their fight or whatever it is they’re fighting for.”
Another man added, “I would hope we could deal with it inside our own walls but it’s a measure that is perhaps warranted.”
It’s the same area where 11-year-old Ephraim Brown died in the crossfire of a gang gun battle last summer. There have been 15 homicides so far in 2007 in 31 Division, which covers the region.
Cops have now released the name of the man tackled in that dramatic takedown raid. He’s 27-year-old Richardo George Shackleford and he was in court Thursday facing 13 charges, including attempted murder and careless use of a firearm.
Investigators are still looking for one suspect in connection with Wednesday’s shootout. He’s described as:
Call police if you know who – or where – he is.