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Nearly a year after the police raids, Dixon feels different, partly thanks to a group of community police officers, known as the Somali Liaison Unit. (Matthew Sherwood For The Globe and Mail)
Nearly a year after the police raids, Dixon feels different, partly thanks to a group of community police officers, known as the Somali Liaison Unit. (Matthew Sherwood For The Globe and Mail)

policing

Project Traveller and the Dixon City Bloods Add to ...

Many of the accused were recorded allegedly talking about drug and gun deals, using code names such as “software” and “white girl” for powder cocaine, “coffee” for heroin, “spinner” for revolvers, “teeth” for ammunition. The police documents also outline a series of violent incidents in connection to the Dixon gang: three homicides, one attempted murder, five shootings, four sounds of gunshots, and at least four seizures of firearms.

The gang’s firearm suppliers were based in Windsor, the affidavits show. The gang often dispatched females to pick up the guns, usually opting to transport the firearms to Toronto on passenger buses.

The gun smugglers found a novel way to bring the guns into Ontario from Michigan. Police allege they hid firearms and a GPS in the bumper area of vehicles belonging to unsuspecting Ontario drivers visiting Michigan for sporting events.

The smugglers then tracked the vehicles in Canada, removing the guns once the drivers were away.

Unlike police affidavits connected to Project Brazen 2 – an ongoing probe focused on the mayor and his friend Alessandro Lisi, who faces drug and extortion charges – Project Traveller documents make no mention of the Ford video. The name “Princess” and the address 15 Windsor Rd. appear in relation to calls with two alleged Dixon gang members. Princess, according to previous affidavits, is Elena Basso, a long-time friend of Mr. Ford. Police believe the Ford video was filmed inside her bungalow.

The bungalow was one of about 50 properties searched in predawn raids last June. The takedown of the Dixon City Bloods has left its mark.

 

Neighbourhood changes

On a recent sunny afternoon in Dixon, a handful of children squealed as the melodic chime of an ice-cream truck grew louder. In the fenced daycare, toddlers played on swings and slides, while older kids kicked around soccer balls in the courtyard.

Nearly a year after the police raids, Dixon feels different. A group of community police officers, known as the Somali Liaison Unit, are here nearly daily, part of a two-year commitment to keep the neighbourhood from slipping back to a marketplace for gangs, drugs and guns.

“We’re trying to make this area better,” says Sergeant Chris Laush of the liaison unit. “We’ve got to keep it going.”

Police veteran Ron Taverner, superintendent of 23 Division, notes violent crime has dropped significantly in the neighbourhood since Project Traveller, although the sound of gunshots was reported in the park recently.

Condo owners have also advocated for safety improvements. The board overseeing the beige-brick towers numbered 320, 330 and 340 had nearly 300 security cameras installed after the raids and hired in a new property manager in November.

Mr. Cianfarani, with Vista Property Management, knows the area. His father managed the towers from 1976 to 1997, while Mr. Cianfarani has looked after the neighbouring cluster of towers since 1997. (The value of units in the identically built towers next door is at least double.)

His security manager, who has worked in Dixon since the 1970s, notes: “Project Traveller was a long time overdue. It was the land of the lawless here. There was no one steering the boat.”

The view from residents isn’t so clear cut. Some welcomed the police raids, others didn’t. And some feel Dixon’s transformation is not happening fast enough.

“It’s a bit changed. It was very bad here. You could not go out late at night,” says a taxi driver who lives at 320 Dixon Rd. He didn’t want to be named because he worries for his teenagers’ safety. “There’s still things that need to be changed. There’s still some kind of [drug] activities going on.”

But long-time resident Ayan Omar contends Dixon was safe before the raids, and still is. Ms. Omar, who helped create a library and computer centre in one of the condo towers, believes the intense media coverage of the Project Traveller raids and the Dixon City Bloods focused too heavily on the neighbourhood and on Somali-Canadians. Ms. Omar says she’s hearing from a lot of frustrated youth who can’t get a summer job because their address is Dixon.

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