TORONTO — A massive police operation targeting suspected drug and gun traffickers was overshadowed Thursday by questions about a possible link between the early-morning raids in Toronto and Mayor Rob Ford’s alleged “crack video.”
Targets around the Greater Toronto Area included an apartment building where reports have said an the alleged video that appears to show Ford smoking crack cocaine was located.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair called the raids significant, saying they have interrupted the flow of guns from the United States into Canada, disrupted alleged gang activity and made dozens of arrests.
The investigation is linked to a series of violent crimes last summer, he said.
“In size there have been bigger (raids), but in importance this ranks up there with, I think, some of the most important work that we do,” Blair said.
But a news conference Blair held to discuss the investigation was dominated by questions about the mayor. Blair would not say if there was any connection to Ford.
“I am not able to disclose any of the investigative methodologies that were employed in this case or to disclose any of the evidence that has (been) obtained,” he said. “There is an appropriate place for that evidence to be made public and it is through a court of law.”
CTV News reported Thursday that a “highly placed source” told them police were investigating the possible existence of such a video weeks before it was reported by the Toronto Star and U.S-based website Gawker, CTV reported.
The raids began Thursday shortly after 5 a.m., and involved police from multiple jurisdictions including Peel, York, Halton, Durham, the RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police as well as police in Edmonton and officers of the Canadian Border Services Agency.
The investigation, known as Project Traveller, centred around the alleged activities of a gang known as the Dixon City Bloods or the Dixon Goonies, Blair said. Many of the alleged crimes were centred around an apartment complex on Dixon Road.
The Toronto Star has quoted unnamed sources as saying that Ford told staff he knew where the purported video was being held — at that apartment complex.
The investigation involves such serious alleged crimes as murder, attempted murder, firearm trafficking and drug trafficking, Blair said.
The impact ranged far beyond one Toronto neighbourhood into such communities as Windsor, Ont., and in Alberta, he said.
Deputy Chief Mark Saunders said 19 people were arrested in Toronto and nine in Windsor, adding that to date 43 people have been arrested in the investigation.
Ford said outside his office Thursday that he didn’t know anything about the raids and had no comment on a resident’s claim that an officer told her the raid was linked to the mayor.
“The chief has not talked to me … I have no other information,” he said.
Ford has said publicly that he does not use crack cocaine and the video does not exist.
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday said it was unlikely the police raids had anything to do with the mayor.
“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,” he said.
“Some media want to tie him to anything that goes on and that’s really unfortunate.”