About 100 Scarborough residents gathered for a town hall meeting with Toronto police Chief Bill Blair on Danzig Street Thursday night, the site of a deadly barbecue shooting earlier this summer.
Shyanne Charles, 14, and Joshua Yasay, 23, were both killed when as many as six shooters opened fire on the crowd of people attending the family-friendly block party. Another 23 people were injured, including a toddler.
Earlier this week, police outlined their case for linking the Galloway Boys street gang to the Danzig shooting, a previous homicide and a string of other shootings in the area.
And on Thursday, Chief Blair returned to the Danzig Street neighbourhood in a bid to show residents police haven’t forgotten them – and plead once again for witnesses to come forward.
“We know how difficult it can be to come forward and share with police,” he said, adding, “we will be there for you.”
In a speech that made scant reference to the gangs police are blaming for the violence, Chief Blair outlined his case for why residents should feel safe in the community.
“These are the cops that work in your neighbourhood,” he said, gesturing to a small group of uniformed officers. He urged people to communicate freely with police, and gave out the phone number for the local division commander.
Police hope that people in this community will come forward – not just with evidence but with an offer to take the witness stand and testify.
“We have a very strong understanding of what took place here and in several other incidents here in southeast Scarborough,” he said. “But we’re still putting together our evidence.”
Some in the crowd questioned the assertion made by police at a press conference earlier this week that the Galloway Boys gang was involved.
Once a fierce street gang that worked the streets of the Kingston-Galloway neighbourhood they are named for, the Galloway Boys was mostly dismantled after a police crackdown in the early 2000s.
“What is Galloway Boys?” asked Pashan Calloo, 22. “I’m not even sure they still exist.”
She said it’s unfair to bring up the name because it tars the entire Galloway community. And she pointed out that police have offered no evidence of their claim that older gangsters are mentoring a new generation.
Others said police need to treat residents better if they expect help with their investigations.
Chief Blair said his officers have worked overtime since the Galloway shooting, and said police plan to reveal statistics soon that will show that crime is down across the city.
“We are absolutely committed to being worthy of their trust,” he said.