Group swarmings in public parks: warning from police

A week ago, a friend of mine was sitting in a park in the Bloor and Christie area when he and his companion were surrounded by a group of teenagers, who took their wallets and jewellery before physically assaulting them.

Now, at least, his misery has company: Toronto police are warning the city that nine such swarmings have taken place in parks along the Christie-to-Dufferin stretch of Bloor Street in the past few weeks.

The police are reporting that the swarm-style muggings have been coming from a group of seven or more youths. A single group is believed to have committed all of the crimes. Though they report having a number of suspects, the police have yet to make any arrests.

Until they do, common sense rules apply: stay out of parks after dark, try to travel in groups if possible, and if you see someone in trouble, call 911 immediately.

I'm six feet tall, 200 pounds, a defenceman on my soccer team, and my eyes have been described as "intense." Nevertheless, the other day someone took a pretty nasty shot at me on my bike, and when that shot missed, he took another shot at me, once again deflating the illusion that my physical stature might somehow protect me from random acts of violence. It takes more than one nutter with a rage-on to rattle my cage, but between that minor incident, my friend's mugging at Bloor and Christie, and the horrifying panhandler stabbing last week, August has not exactly blown my skirt up with an overall feeling of safety on our streets.

It starts with a feeling of general unease, but it isn't long before stories like this start affecting the way we interact with our landscape. How do we address concerns like this? Hike up the police protection, create an unofficial Big Brother grid with our constantly-recording cell phones and video cameras, or just try to look out for each other a bit more than we might have done last month or last year? Or do we wait until this particular group of thugs gets taken off the streets, and then assume that Toronto has gone back to being as safe as people who don't live here think it is? What works for you, readers?

Photo, "Aggression in the Mosh Pit," by Torontogal.

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