Toronto police say they have resumed normal operations after beefing up police presence in the downtown core following an unconfirmed threat on Thursday.
An internal Toronto police memo says the service received “credible information regarding a potential vehicle ramming attack” in the area of the CN Tower.
CityNews has confirmed the document was crafted on Wednesday by the Toronto Police Service.
The memo says: “Intelligence Services has not received any information regarding a specific criminal extremist threat ….” but goes on to note that, “areas of large public gatherings remain as targets for lone-actors and/or terrorist/extremist groups, and their sympathizers who wish to stage high-profile attacks.”
Police say residents should expect to see a police presence around the Rogers Centre as part of their 2018 downtown security plan.
In a statement, U-Haul told CityNews it was contacted by the Ontario Provincial Police on Wednesday about the potential ramming threat.
“U-Haul was one of many companies contacted by the Ontario Provincial Police on July 11 with a request to remain vigilant in reporting suspicious activity in the Toronto area,” the company wrote. “As a result, and at the request of the police, U-Haul issued a reminder to our Ontario Team Members to continue being mindful of suspicious behavior and reiterated instructions on how to report such behavior to police.”
Toronto police replied to CityNews and other media via Twitter on Thursday afternoon, stating that the document was “a draft operational plan that was never approved.”
Earlier Thursday police said they received information about a “potential risk to public safety” in the Greater Toronto Area, but didn’t provide specifics.
Police responded by deploying more officers throughout the city, with the heaviest presence in the venue-rich downtown core.
There was also an increased police presence at Canada’s Wonderland. The popular amusement park released a statement, saying it was aware “of unspecified and uncorroborated information regarding venues in the GTA,” and said York regional police are on site, but the park is still open to guests.
In downtown Toronto, the area along Bremner Boulevard and Simcoe Street was teeming with officers. The area features some of the city’s most popular tourist destination like the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquariam and Rogers Centre.
Despite the heavy police presence, Toronto police Inspector Michael Barsky encouraged the public to take a business-as-usual approach.
“We encourage everybody to come and enjoy all of the venues they usually enjoy,” he said. “Absolutely people can go up and enjoy the CN tower and every venue in this corridor.”
When grilled by reporters for more details about the potential threat, Barsky said he wouldn’t comment on the specifics of the ongoing investigation.
He did say that police “received information that there’s a potential risk to the GTA.”
“The only requirement we believe that is necessary is an enhanced police presence,” he said. “We have increased the footprint here specifically for public safety.”
“The message to the public is Toronto is one of the safest cities in the world and we want the community to continue to enjoy that.”
Barsky said events like Thursday night’s Foo Fighters concert at Rogers Centre would proceed with an increased police presence.
He also said there was “no indication that there are concerns for the airport.”
The TTC’s Brad Ross told CityNews there’s no impact on public transit service at this time. Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said service hasn’t been impacted but that they are aware of the potential threat and remain “highly vigilant.”
The potential threat comes at a busy time in downtown Toronto with tens of thousands in town for this weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto.
Premier Doug Ford said the province is monitoring the situation and that “officials remain in close contact with federal and municipal security partners.”
While Insp. Barsky tried to assuage public fears, he also called for public vigilance.
“We want people to call in if they see something suspicious,” he said. “Without the eyes of the community we will never succeed.”