A total of 43 people have been arrested in a series of early-morning police raids in southern Ontario, including one at the apartment building which reports have connected to the alleged video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine.
In a sweep to net guns and drugs dubbed “Project Traveller,” police raided apartment buildings on Dixon Road, including one at 320 Dixon Rd. — the address where two Toronto Star reporters say they viewed the alleged video of the mayor while sitting in a car in the building’s parking lot.
Later reports said the alleged video was being held in one of the apartment units in this building.
Ford has denied the existence of such a video and said that he doesn’t smoke crack cocaine.
Police also raided the home of Muhammad Khattak, reports the Toronto Star. Khattak was one of three men in a photo with Ford, which was provided to the Star and Gawker.com by the man who was trying to sell the alleged video of the mayor smoking crack cocaine and making racial and homophobic slurs. Anthony Smith, one of the other men in the picture, was killed in a drive-by shooting in March. Khattak was also injured in that shooting.
The Star report says police left Khattak’s home with an evidence bag containing what appeared to be a laptop.
The early morning raid involved forces from the Toronto police, the Ontario Provincial Police, and other regional police forces, including those in Windsor. The Canadian Border Services Agency was also involved. The Toronto police had 39 warrants to act upon, they said at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair and Deputy Chief Mark Saunders told reporters the raid was part of a year-long investigation that began in June 2012 and involved a gang called the “Dixon Bloods,” which is involved in the drug and gun trade in Toronto, and is attempting to control an area around Dixon Road.
In total, 42 police tactical teams executed 39 search warrants Thursday morning, with 11 of those warrants in Windsor, Saunders said. Police arrested a total of 43 people have been arrested since the investigation began, including 19 in Toronto and nine in Windsor this morning. They also found 40 guns and approximately $3 million worth of drugs. The drugs seized included heroine, cocaine and hashish, said Saunders.
The gangs targeted in the raid have been involved in cases of murder and attempted murder, as well as robberies and drug and weapons trafficking, Saunders said.
Blair said that the raids in Windsor had to do with the alleged illegal trafficking of firearms into Canada from the United States.
“I think we’ve cut off their pipeline, that supply of guns and that is going to make Toronto a safer place,” Blair told reporters.
He would not comment on any connection between Mayor Ford and today’s raids, saying that all of the evidence will come out in court and that he couldn’t jeopardize the investigation by releasing anything before then.
While Blair wouldn’t give many details on the investigation, CTV News is reporting a police source that says Toronto police were looking into the existence of an alleged video of Ford smoking crack weeks before the story first appeared at Gawker.com and in the Toronto Star.
Police were alerted to the potential existence of a video through a wire tap, says CTV News.
Speaking to reporters at City Hall Thursday morning, Ford said he didn’t know about the raids beforehand. He said his cable was out all night and he had just heard about the raids on the radio on his drive in. “I support the police 100 per cent,” he said.
Ford would not give many details on why, as Toronto mayor, he wasn’t briefed on a massive police raid that involved hundreds of officers.
“They can’t call me all the time and say to me that they’re going to do this or that,” Ford said. He added that his staff had been given some information about the raid by the police communications department.
When Blair was asked why the mayor wasn’t informed of the raids, he said that police standard operating procedure “in such operations is to share information on a need-to-know basis.”
Speaking to reporters during a break from a city council meeting, Toronto Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday said it was unlikely the police raids had anything to do with Ford.
“The police say they were planned months ago, and it’s an extensive raid, it’s not just to do with that set of buildings in Etobicoke, it’s throughout the GTA, involving other police forces,” Holyday said. “Some media want to tie [Ford] to anything that goes on and that’s really unfortunate.”
With a file from The Canadian Press