Bad tenants, prostitutes top Cabbagetown South agenda Gang shootings not random: 51 Div officer advises residents

The Cabbagetown South community faces many challenges—but at the March 6 meeting of the Cabbagetown South Residents’ Association (CSRA), over 50 residents came out to meet them.

The meeting agenda was wide-ranging from dilapidated buildings to litter and streetwalkers.

One hot button issue for CSRA members is the run-down area at Dundas and Sherbourne, where several properties are run by non-resident, absentee or agency landlords, which in turn has caused the nearby commercial properties to become less attractive to potential business owners. To restore vitality and viability to the area, the CSRA is attempting to open up a dialogue with the landlords and the agencies that provide services to the tenants.

The CSRA’s Don Purvis explains, “We connected with the Salvation Army and Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) at a recent community action plan meeting hosted by MPP Glen Murray. A follow-up meeting with both of these organizations centered on improving support for newly housed individuals moving into TCHC buildings. Our organization is very concerned about the turn over of tenants at the Dan Harrison Complex near Sherbourne and Dundas.”

The CSRA hopes that early intervention with problem tenants and support from organizations that place tenants into TCHC properties can help stem the unacceptable turnover in social housing buildings in the area. Its next step will be is to connect with Seaton House and other local agencies.

Widespread prostitution remains a problem for the area and has been exacerbated by the recent Bedford v Canada ruling whereby prostitutes can apply to have a bodyguard or driver to protect them.

Even if their trade has been made safer, it is still ubiquitous: Cabbagetown residents report substantial activity (and abandoned condoms) in parks and alleys.

Police officers are aware of the activity but have had their powers curtailed: per Staff Sergeant John Spanton of 51 Division who was the meeting’s guest speaker, all that police officers can do is book a car approaching a prostitute—and then only if it is actually blocking traffic. Otherwise, the officer can be accused of harassment.

Some South Cabbagetown residents reported a small success in moving the streetwalkers away by approaching them respectfully: in most cases where this was done, the prostitutes have moved on.

Spanton supervises community police officers and has served in 51 Division for 28 years. His area has the highest concentration of shelters for men and women in Toronto—and also for shelters for people with mental challenges. While there is now a moratorium on shelters in residential areas, Spanton pointed out, the shelters that are already in the area will remain and hopefully improve.

Spanton also spoke on video security cameras on personal property. Homeowners can install video cameras for the protection of their own home: cameras must be fixed on the house and can sometimes be allowed to pan onto the street.

Spanton encouraged residents to “report your crime!” Overall patterns can be detected and dealt with if crimes are reported.

Gangs have emerged and gang activity is getting younger. Spanton advised that the CSRA members should not be overly concerned about shootings as they are targeted and not random.

He also cautioned that crimes and accidents are sometimes avoidable. On March 4, one individual had taken $600 from an ATM and was counting it out before it contributed to a gang’s benevolent fund. Also, Spanton reports, three individuals had been run over while stepping into the road while texting in recent months.

Crime and prostitution were not the only items on the agenda.

Staff from XL Insurance Group were on hand to explain their corporate philanthropy program. Located in Cabbagetown, XL makes donations to qualifying projects, in this case non-profit, non-political and non-religious.

XL senior underwriter Jean-Bernard Joly explains, “About 80 colleagues and I offer eight hours of voluntary help (over 600 hours of man-power) once a year for what we call “Day of Giving.” We have helped four projects in Cabbagetown so far.”

In heritage news, a nomination for the neigbourhood to receive a Heritage Conservation District designation has been sent to the city’s Heritage Preservation Services (HPS). This is the first step towards the neighbourhood becoming designated.

Residents were told that HPS expects to begin work on the nomination  in the spring, which is sooner than they had first been lead to believe. They expect HPS will recommend to council that they proceed to the study phase.

Public consultation meetings would then be held, followed by the study itself, after which the district plan would be written. Councillor Pam McConnell will vote in favour of the designation and plan if there is sufficient local support.

CRSA members designed a flyer encouraging their neighbours to recycle bottles (See The Bulletin Feb. edition) with the deposit from the empties going to support local charities.

Members are encouraged to affix the CSRA’s “no bottles in bin” label on recycling bins to deter people from rummaging around refuse bins.

For information or to join the association, visit