By Saleem Khan
Police say crime is dropping but downtown businesses are expecting a rough summer.
Police crime statistics for the downtown core show a downward trend over the last three years, but store owners do not see the change.
“It’s definitely getting worse,” says Sep Berteau, referring to the level of criminal activity in the area. Berteau is the manager of Toronto Sports and Gift Store on Yonge St. and has worked there since 1986.
Berteau blames street youth for most of the criminal activities he sees.
“Twelve kids go inside (a store), then grab something and they run. They are hard to handle if there is one or two people working.” He says the youth target stores where young girls or older people are working behind the counter because they are more vulnerable.
Berteau’s view of street youth is much different from that of Covenant House, which gives assistance to the youth. Spokespeople from Covenant House were unavailable for comment, but their literature presents their view of the youth.
“Young people…are vulnerable and virtually alone,” reads their printed material. Crime is “part of the street code. It’s the way kids are forded to survive on the street.”
Statistics show in 1992, 354 arrests were made in the Yonge, Dundas, Jarvis and Gerrard area. In the following two years, arrest figures dropped by 100 each year to 140 arrests in 1994. Arrest records until the end of this May suggests the trend is continuing.
Crime stats for the Dundas, Jarvis, Yonge and Gerrard area
Despite the trend, Berteau says “last month someone got stabbed right in front of the shelter where kids hang out.”
Ryerson Security Manager Karen Craig says “crime never takes a holiday.” Security is maintaining the number of staff for the summer, but “concentrate more on the perimeter” of the campus. She says they are able to cover the area more effectively in the summer by stepping up bike patrols.
Toronto Mayor Barbara Hall says she wants to build a stage on Yonge St. for street performers and artists. She hopes this will attract a more family-oriented crowd and reduce crime in the area. If it is successful, she would like Yonge St. turned into a pedestrian mall, like it was in the past.
“That’s an issue that keeps coming up and maybe on day it will happen,” she said.
With files from Kenny Yum.