Group of 'pathetic parasites' arrested after string of gang-related robberies across GTA
16 young men arrested in multi-jurisdictional investigation
Sixteen young men have been arrested following a string of robberies around the Greater Toronto Area targeting stores and banks.
"We have approximately 50 robberies that have occurred starting in May 2016 by a group of what I call 'pathetic parasites,'" said Toronto police Staff Sgt. Mike Earl at a press conference.
Police services from Toronto, York, Peel, Guelph, Halton, Hamilton, Durham and Barrie worked together in a months-long multi-jurisdictional investigation.
Toronto police say the group responsible for the robberies contains members from two gangs, both of which Earl said come from northwestern Toronto: The Complex Crip Gangsters and the Treyy Money Gang. Most of those arrested are between the ages of 16 and 20.
Police say that several different weapons were used in the hold ups, including handguns, a sawed-off shotgun, and a bolt-action shotgun.
"The terror they [created,] especially in the retail robberies, they were not afraid to use physical force to get their way," said Earl.
Banks, convenience stores targeted
The robberies targeted banks, shops and convenience stores, beginning in May at a Metro grocery store in Etobicoke and continuing into November.
The length of time between robberies varied: sometimes a week or more would pass, and sometimes as many as four would be carried out in a single day at different locations.
The robberies are also connected to the theft of 18 vehicles in Toronto, Guelph, Halton and Peel between May and July.
In a press release, police describe the group as using "sophisticated" techniques to avoid detection by law enforcement.
"Individual gang members would interchange their roles throughout this investigation, from stealing cars, which were then used in these robberies, to being getaway drivers, or participate as the upfront robber armed with a firearm," it said.
'It's not over,' say police
Police have laid charges in connection to 37 robberies in total, and continue to investigate another dozen.
Three males are still wanted on outstanding warrants.
Earl said he's concerned that the gangs will continue to recruit new members.
"It's not over. We have to keep working on this so they can't rebuild their roster," he said.
At least one of the gangs involved is known to police.
Members of the Complex Crip Gangsters were arrested in 2015 after being investigated for their involvement in a national human trafficking network.