Toronto police have issued a public safety advisory in the city’s west end after a series of robberies across the GTA.
Police said as many as 15 robberies happened overnight in Toronto, Halton and Peel Region, targeting gas stations and convenience stores.
It’s believed the robberies were pulled off by a group of men, three of which were possibly armed with guns.
No injuries were reported.
The three suspects were all described as black males with slim builds wearing hooded sweaters and each had their face disguised — one with a dark coloured balaclava, one with a dark coloured mask and the third with a light coloured bandana.
The suspects fled the scene in a dark coloured vehicle, believed to be a Honda Civic.
“They have identified the same group involved of all of these robberies. There may be more, we’re still investigating,” said Toronto Police Const. David Hopkinson. “What we’ve seen is they’ve indicated guns in some of their robberies. There may have been some cars stolen or car jackings that occurred in relation to these robberies as well.”
Peel Police say some store employees were assaulted during the robberies.
“Unfortunately some of the employees of the establishments, they were pushed and slapped. No major injuries, nobody was transported to hospital,” said Peel Police Const. Harinder Sohi.
A Rabba Fine Foods location on Hurontario Street in Mississauga was among the stores robbed. An employee told CityNews three to four men came into the convenience store with their faces covered. The men allegedly jumped over the counter where the cashier was, pushed him and punched him in the stomach. They then allegedly opened the cash register and took $1,300 before fleeing the scene.
A Subway sandwich shop at Millcreek Drive and Erin Mills Parkway and a Canadian Tire gas station at Dixie Road and Eglinton Avenue were also hit.
In Oakville, Halton police confirm a Pizza Nova location on Ford Drive was also robbed by three men just before midnight. One of the robbers reportedly had a weapon but it was not used, police say.
In Milton, the Big Bear convenience store on Main Street East was also struck. The owner of the store tells CityNews that security footage shows three people with their faces covered coming into the store and taking everything from the cash register. He says the cashier suffered an upper leg injury due to broken glass.
Security expert and former Toronto police officer Ross McLean says there’s a high rate of conviction with these types of robberies, calling them high risk with little reward.
“If the motivation is to get a lot of cash, they’re not going to get a lot of cash out of here. The penalties for being caught for these sort of crimes are severe. This is armed robbery, you’re going away for a long time.”
With the province planning to expand the sale of alcohol and permit the sale of recreational marijuana by private retailers, McLean says extra steps will need to be taken to increase security.
“When it comes to cannabis, every business is going to have to come up with their policies about how they want it to be handled, on their property, around their property, by their customers, even by their associates. It’s a big question with not many great answers yet. We’re all looking for them.”