Dundas Street West business owners talk crime prevention after string of break-ins  

Police from 11 and 14 divisions call smash and grabs “crimes of opportunity”  


Toronto police from 11 and 14 divisions discussed crime prevention with business owners along Dundas St. W., between Brock Ave. and Dovercourt Rd., after a recent string of break and enters.  



A string of commercial break and enters 11 and 14 divisions police call “smash and grabs” have been hitting shops on Dundas Street West over the past two weeks, and business owners are anxious. 


“Right now people’s nerves are on edge because in the grand scheme of things, a couple of broken windows and a bottle of alcohol stolen don’t seem big, but it’s not the value, it’s the violation of one’s property and the violation of the space,” said Helder Ramos, Dundas West Business Improvement Area (BIA) coordinator. 


“It’s the feeling of vulnerability and that has to be understood.”


In the earlier half of February, three stores on the east side of Dufferin Street were broken, Ramos said. 


“People are rattled, but there’s only so much we can do as a BIA,” he said at a meeting held at 250 Dovercourt Rd. on Feb. 19 for business owners to discuss the string of crimes with 11 and 14 division’s community response teams and Ward 18 Davenport Councillor Ana Bailão. 


According to 14 Division Staff Sgt. Mike Facoetti, the smash and grabs happening in the area throughout the past year are all “crimes of opportunity.” 


Criminals see valuables near a window or door that are easy to grab and walk away with even if alarm systems are in place. These can be bottles of booze or even an entire cash register that’s in plain sight, he said.


Despite the rush of break-ins, statistically, crime in 14 Division has been in decline, Facoetti said. However, commercial break and enters are up from last year between Jan. 18 to Feb. 14 from 21 to 25 reported cases. 


One business owner, Lesley Mattina of OMG Baked Goodness, along with Bailão suggested an increased uniformed police presence during the times these smash and grabs occur, which is typically between 2 to 6 a.m., would boost owners’ “sense of safety.” 


“My biggest concern is that I’m asking my staff to go there (at those times) and asking them to be vulnerable,” Mattina said. 


“To me it’s the vulnerability of it all. I feel because we’re a small, young staff (who) is there really early in the morning and sometimes late at night, who knows who is waiting thinking maybe that person has the store’s cash on them.” 


Mattina’s bakery was broken into last January after two attempted break-ins from the back door. On the third try, robbers smashed the glass of the front door late one night, stole a charity tin left on the counter and attempted to take the register, but failed. 


At the time, her bakery was the third shop to be broken into in a week. 


Luckily, Mattina had an alarm system installed, which notified the police, who in turn notified her of the incident, which cost her about $2,000 in damages. 


“It still affects me. I have a visceral response to a phone call late at night. I dread it,” she said. 


“And I had relatively little damage, so I can’t imagine those who’ve had worse. We (small business owners) put our everything into it; it sounds dramatic, but it’s true. So it feels like a home invasion. It’s a real invasion of our space.” 


Police at the meeting offered tips to owners such as leaving the register open and empty so it removes the temptation, removing or concealing anything of value that’s visible from the street, including bottles of alcohol, installing motion sensors, and leaving lights on in the store.


Mattina attended the meeting to find out if she could be doing more to protect herself, her shop and her staff, but she said she’s been doing everything they’ve suggested. All she can do at this point is continue to stay vigilant. 


“I really make a conscious effort to pay attention now. I think if everyone (business owners) does that and is on the lookout, I think that can only help,” she said.


“We have a really strong sense of community between all of the businesses so I know we’ve really been keeping eyes out for everyone. We’re taking it very seriously.”


Police also implored owners in attendance to spread the word to others to report any and all break-ins that happen to their shop no matter how small the damage.


It’s a request Ramos said he feels is reasonable.


“They have to report it. If they don’t there’s nothing I or the police can do,” he said.


“If they (police) can’t form patterns, they can’t put together these formulations to develop a strategy to help combat the crimes."


For the complete article ..........................Parkdale Villager, February 25, 2015


By Hilary Caton