TORONTO — More than 1,000 charges were laid against 75 members and associates of a Toronto-based gang after police seized guns, drugs and thousands of dollars in cash during a series of early morning raids this week, authorities said Friday.
The arrests have "significantly disrupted" the Five Points Generalz, Toronto police said at a news conference where they displayed dozens of handguns, bags of narcotics and wads of money taken from the gang.
"The individuals arrested in this operation are not simply kids being exploited by gang members, nor are they addicts being used to support their addictions," acting Insp. Don Belanger said. "They are organized criminals, a significant number of whom are no strangers to the criminal justice system."
The raids targeting the street gang, which is allegedly responsible for a number of shootings in the city, came as many Toronto residents demand action to address a recent spate of high-profile gun crime.
The majority of the charges laid during the blitz were for gun, drug and organized crime-related offences. At least two people were also charged with participating in a criminal organization with the intent of committing murder — an offence that does not necessarily mean a murder took place, police said.
The police sweep, code named Project Patton, resulted in the seizure of $184,000 of illegally earned cash, large amounts of cocaine, fentanyl, carfentanyl, heroin and marijuana, and the largest number of guns ever confiscated at one time by Toronto law enforcement, officers said.
Police seized 60 brand new semi-automatic handguns from a Generalz associate as he drove them from Cornwall, Ont., to Toronto last month, Belanger said.
Many of the guns, which were traced back to Florida, come in fluorescent colours and patterns, leading Deputy Chief James Ramer to compare them to one of his granddaughter's squirt guns.
"We will be sending out an officer safety bulletin because many of these guns, if they were pointed at a police officer, (the officer) could very easily conclude that either a toy gun or a water pistol is being pointed at them," Belanger said.
Police said they believe they have arrested the highest-ranking members of the Generalz, but acknowledged that Project Patton will not put an end to gang activity in Toronto.
"We realize that drugs equal easy money and that there will always be people willing to step in and fill that void," he said.
Police conducted a similar blitz against the Five Point Generalz in 2010, during which they arrested 98 people. Belanger said 13 of those Generalz members were arrested again during Project Patton.
"There are absolutely people who served their sentence and were released and chose to return to a life of criminality," Belanger said, calling the situation frustrating.
"We know that not everyone that goes through the correctional process comes out rehabilitated... Let's be honest, I don't think the day will ever come when we can completely stop that."
Peter Goffin , The Canadian Press