Schools in midtown Toronto have sent letters home to parents and are making sure students are street-proofed after receiving a police warning about a man threatening children.
Toronto police sent out a press release on Wednesday about Simon William Gares, a 32-year-old man wanted for threatening death and mischief. They allege Gares made threats to the safety of elementary school children and believe he is violent and dangerous.
A handful of Toronto District School Board (TDSB) principals sent out a letter to let parents know about the incidents while urging them not to worry.
“[Police] have recommended to us that we share this with you with the understanding that there is no need for concern,” Maurice Cody Public School Principal Andrew Howard said in a letter.
“Our staff is fully aware of this situation and will be extra vigilant letting people in through our security system, supervising at recess and during both pick-up and drop-off times.”
Spokesman Ryan Bird told CityNews all elementary schools in the TDSB keep their outer doors locked and require visitors to buzz in via an intercom, and sometimes on camera. He said some parents have called their children’s schools with questions, and he encouraged any others with concerns to do the same.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) sent a note to its schools and has asked them to review “general street-proofing kinds of things.”
“In a case where it wasn’t specific, we always err on the side of caution and alert all our schools,” said spokeswoman Emmy Szekeres Milne.
“Things specific to children or school-age — could be teens — we definitely take note of that and we would definitely inform our communities.”
Schools in the TCDSB will be reminding children to travel to and from school in groups, stay in well-lit areas, be aware of their surroundings, report suspicious behaviour to a trusted adult and keep valuables out of sight.
“[It’s] what they should be aware of and who to turn to if they notice something,” Szekeres Milne said.
Though police didn’t say where the threats were made, the warning came from 53 Division, which spans the area from Spadina Road to the Don River and from Lawrence Avenue to Bloor Street. Neither the TDSB nor the TCDSB has got any reports of its students being threatened.
Gares is white, five-foot-11, unshaven with a medium build and short, brown hair.
He was last seen wearing black, baggy jeans with a white symbol on the pockets, a black polar fleece jacket and sunglasses.
Police say it’s not safe to approach him and anyone who sees him should call 911.