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A condo/ apartment complex on Dixon Rd. between Kipling and Islington Ave. in the north west area of Toronto houses the many new immigrants who now call Toronto home. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
A condo/ apartment complex on Dixon Rd. between Kipling and Islington Ave. in the north west area of Toronto houses the many new immigrants who now call Toronto home. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

The neighbourhood at the centre of the Ford controversy: Guns, gangs and second chances Add to ...

“I am happy to be here. It’s my home. That’s where I start my life, raise my kids,” Ms. Mohamed says as her children walk into the family restaurant. “This is where I get [my] living and respect.”

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Dozens of children are out playing in the grass courtyard in front of 320 Dixon Rd., running and kicking soccer balls as a handful of mothers sit on paint-chipped benches to keep watch and chat. Another plane flies overhead, roaring through a bright blue sky toward Toronto Pearson International Airport. No one looks up. This is a government-approved flight path.

Inside the 23-storey tower, the 17th floor still bears the marks of a gunfight that erupted in the middle of the night, just after the May long weekend. Bullets nicked the black-painted frame of the door leading to the stairwell. Another shot ripped apart wallpaper and drywall in the hallway by the elevators before piercing the front door of an apartment where an elderly woman in a wheelchair lives.

A man was wounded in the May 21 shooting, his blood staining the hallway’s forest-green carpet. The incident is not connected to the video, Toronto police have told The Globe. But it’s believed the video may have been in an apartment on this floor at some point, according to a tip received by one of the mayor’s aides, a city-hall source says.

The gunfire rattled condo owner Radouane Jaghtite. Mr. Jaghtite, who moved to Canada from Morocco nearly two decades ago, has lived in the Dixon high-rise since 2009, paying $47,000 for a two-bedroom unit whose ceiling was stained brown with marijuana smoke. Mr. Jaghtite, 36, gutted the apartment, installing hardwood floors, a drop ceiling with pot lights, new kitchen cupboards and a Jacuzzi tub.

He says his sister cried when she learned he was moving with his wife to Dixon. She was worried for their safety and their investment.

“You have to start somewhere,” Mr. Jaghtite says, his toddler, Elies, sitting beside him on a black sofa, his wife holding their seven-month-old boy, Yasser, on her lap. The couple are saving for a house near family in Maple, north of Toronto. They don’t want to raise their boys in Dixon.

“You see 13-year-old girls holding a bottle of alcohol,” notes Amina Allaoui, Mr. Jaghtite’s wife. Her husband adds: “In some apartments, you can see 30 people sitting around and they’re smoking marijuana. I’m telling you this is not young people. This is old people. Who is going to look after the kids? The kids look after themselves.”

The state of these condo towers is improving, though. With a condo board in place again and a new property management company on site since January, long-standing problems are slowly being addressed. Burned-out light bulbs have been changed and there are plans for tighter oversight of renters, who fill one-third of the condos. Security guards patrol the area from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m., and at least 150 surveillance cameras are slated to be installed. Mr. Jaghtite hopes the cameras will improve safety.

“Now if anything goes wrong, like what happened [the other] week, we’re going to know exactly who does it.”

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At the basketball court donated by former Toronto Raptors star Vince Carter, a few young boys shoot hoops before dinner. The red-surfaced court is part of Dixon Park, a wide swath of grass and playgrounds that separate the clusters of white-brick towers.

Basketball and soccer bind many of Dixon’s boys and young men. Anthony Smith played ball here before he was gunned down outside a downtown Toronto nightclub on March 28. A message at centre court is dedicated to him: “R.I.P. Rondo” – the 21-year-old’s nickname.

A photo that purports to show Mr. Smith standing next to Mayor Ford has been plastered on the news for weeks. The photograph was provided to the Toronto Star and Gawker, an American gossip website, by Canadian-Somali drug dealers seeking to sell the crack-cocaine video, the media organizations have said. Neighbours say a nearby beige-brick bungalow served as the backdrop for the photo, The Globe revealed this week.

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