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posted February 7, 2006

Street Cops give negative assessment of Bloor/Lansdowne

"East of Dufferin" fares better

The neighborhood to the west of Dufferin Grove Park is rapidly changing. House prices are going up, warehouses and factories are being converted to condos -- some of them with interesting architecture -- there are lots of artists in the neighborhood, the second generation of Portuguese immigrants is coming of age. Soon they'll swamp out the troubled street life of the last few decades. But for the moment, drinkers, drug addicts and their friends are still highly visible on the main street corners at night. Egon Philipps, who's been working on behalf of this neighborhood for a long time now, sent along this letter from one of his neighbours:

I had a frustrating experience yesterday that I'd like to share with you. Feel free to post this on your website or email it out.

I am trying to find a tenant to share my house with and thought I found the perfect one. A friend of mine was all prepared to move in and came by yesterday to check out the place. But she was basically scared off by police and crime. Here's what's happened.

She took the subway over with another friend and they were getting out at the Lansdowne subway -- the Emerson Street exit --when they saw three police officers on bikes. My friend explained that she was thinking of moving to the area and asked the officers what it was like. They told her it's a crime-ridden area and advised her against t it. The police said they certainly wouldn't want any of their family members living here. Said it's especially unsafe for young women. The police said the Coffee Time at the corner of Lansdowne and Bloor was a notorious crack-dealing hangout. They said the dealers/users aren't from the area but this is where they came to do business. The police said they would never walk around here at night. While crime happens throughout the city, this is the "hub," they said. There is a lot of prostitution in the area, too, the police told my friends. While the prostitution slows down in the winter, it is very bad in the summer. The police also told them that there are shelters in the area that attract some unsavoury characters. They said Bloor Street -- specifically at Lansdowne, Marguerita and Brock -- was particularly bad. East of Dufferin is nice, but west of Dufferin is bad.

Needless to say, I'm now without a tenant.

This has also got me worried about the safety of my 19-year-old niece who's going to come and live with me after she moves out of her U-of-T residence at the end of the school year. I was honestly looking at the MLS listings before writing this, wondering if I would be better off moving.

Here's what I don't understand. If the police are so very aware of the problems here, why don't they do more to crack down on them? If they know that the Coffee Time is a big crack hangout, why not clean it up?

My friend actually asked the police if all the new police hiring will help the situation, but the officers responded that any new hirees would essentially just replace some 300 officers planning to retire.

The really weird/pathetic thing about all of this is that this is the second time police have scared off a potential tenant for me. A couple of years ago, a young woman, accompanied by her friend, came to look at my place. They were meeting at the Lansdowne subway and one arrived a little before the other. She waited for her friend outside the station where a police officer approached her and asked her what she was doing there. The woman explained that she was waiting for a friend. The officer told her she better be careful because this was a very dangerous area. Again, needless to say, they didn't want to live on St. Clarens.

How do we deal with this? Is it an issue of more policing? Are police afraid that if they did crack down, it would just send troublemakers to other parts of the city? Do we we just resign ourselves to living in a bad neighbourhood? What do the police think is needed to get to the bottom of this?


A frustrated St. Clarens resident

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