Toronto police say Wednesday's series of city-wide, predawn raids targeted two groups of ruthless gangs and may provide key evidence into some recent gang-related shootings.
Police held a news conference Thursday to provide more detail about the raids that took place a day earlier and were aimed at curbing the activities of two gangs: the Sick Thugz and the Asian Assassins. The raids were part of two police stings titled Project RX and Project Battery.
The raids resulted in more than 50 arrests on Wednesday plus 40 more arrests in the weeks leading up to Wednesday's raids.
Toronto police Insp. Gordon Sneddon of the force's guns and gangs task force said the two rival groups will face multiple charges.
Without getting into specifics, Sneddon said police are investigating a connection between the Asian Assassin gang and some recent high-profile shootings, including the murder of Michael Nguyen, 23, who was gunned down in the Yorkdale Mall Parking lot last April. Sneddon said it's possible murder charges relating to the Nguyen murder and other shootings will come as a result of Wednesday's raids.
"These people on both sides were involved in a criminal organization whose main commodity was to traffic in guns and drugs," he said. "In the process of doing that, they were quite prepared to resort to extreme acts of violence to support their task."
Police displayed a selection of the guns and drugs seized in Wednesday's operation. Drugs seized include cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy. Police also seized a cocaine press and more than $350,000 in Canadian cash. The guns seized include assault rifles and semi-automatic handguns.
Police raids can help keep gangs in check, crime writer says
Earlier Thursday, a Toronto crime writer told CBC News police raids and mass arrests like the ones that took place early Wednesday are necessary to help keep gangs in check.
"You have to go after gangs, you can't let them get too big," writer James Dubro said Thursday during an interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. "Are we safer? Yes, because there will perhaps be less gunfire. If you don't go after them, they're liable to get cocky and more and more powerful as we saw with the Hells Angels in Montreal about 15 years ago."
Dubro has written books documenting how criminal organizations operate in Toronto including Mob Rule and Dragons of Crime.
Both gangs have waged gun battles in public places
Dubro said although there are larger criminal groups operating in the city than the Asian Assassins and Sic Thugz, the gangs represent a danger to the public due to their willingness to wage gun battles in public spaces.
The Sic Thugz were involved in a July 2012 shooting at the crowded Eaton Centre food court, which left two men dead and injured six people, including a 13-year-old boy.
The Nguyen shooting took place in the parking lot of a busy shopping mall.
"[These gangs] are dangerous to the public because of the public shootings," Dubro said. "They have guns and they'll use them. They don't give a hoot about the public."