Too Close To Home

Most real estate buyers are out there today looking for the biggest house they can find, with features like parking, or a basement apartment, or a backyard.  They’re prioritizing access to transit, school districts, parks, and proximity to a thriving retail strip.

But what about the thing that used to be number-one on everybody’s list?

Safety.

Let me tell you what happened outside my condo earlier this week, and how I feel about it, because how I feel is almost as shocking as what actually happened…

CartoonHouse

I live in a very safe area of the city of Toronto.

We all do.

And I mean that – we all do.  Most of us, anyways.

Truth be told, the idea of “safety,” and subject of “crime,” in my humble opinion, are things that get blown out of proportion by media who thrive on the negative news stories, and by politicians who can use it for fear-mongering.

Most actual “crime” takes place in the same handful of areas.

Of course, that’s a problem unto itself.

Nobody wants to see pockets of the city where ALL the crime takes place, and where all the residents live in danger.

Well, actually, everybody outside those pockets want to see it.  They just wont admit that outloud, or even to themselves.

If you asked yourself, or the person next to you, “Hey, do you feel bad about all the crime that takes place in XXX-area?  Would you be willing to wave a magic wand, and take 15% of the crime away, and put it in your neighbourhood to lessen the burden on those who live in the crime-ridden area?” is there anybody out there that would say, “yes?”

I moved down to King & Sherbourne over ten years ago, and there was nothing “dangerous” about the area.  There still isn’t.

I used to walk up to Richmond Street to the Tim Horton’s to get my coffee, and the worst you’d see is a homeless guy begging for change.

Go further north, and you’re into Moss Park.

I used to shop at the Dollorama up there regularly, and I’d walk the “gauntlet” of people hovering on the sidewalk on the east side of Sherbourne Street, north of Queen.  They were dirty, and most of them homeless, and/or drug addicts, but I never really felt “unsafe.”

Truth be told, they wanted as little to do with me, as I wanted to do with them.

They wanted to talk to others like them, smoke cigarettes, and wait around until the shelters opened up again.

The last thing they wanted was to interact with an “outsider.”

In the summers, the lawn at Moss Park arena is littered with bums laying out in the sun, no shirt, shouting at the person across the street, looking for half-smoked cigarettes on the street, and generally causing a ruckus.  But just steps away, in the parking lot next to the arena, what do you see?  Audi, Lexus, Mercedes, BMW – cars parking so guys can get out and play summer league hockey.

Nobody says, “I’m not playing summer league at Moss Park because it’s dirty and dangerous.”

I tell people – my friends, family, clients, and especially the parents of clients, “King East and the ‘St. Lawrence Market area’ are super safe, and there’s a sort-of ‘invisible fence’ up at Richmond Street, that the rif-raff won’t pass.  You don’t really want to venture north of Richmond Street, but the rest of our neighbourhood is just fantastic all around.”

I said that then, and I say that now.

Toronto, for the most part is “safe.”

And when something unimaginable happens, literally at your doorstep, it has the ability to change how you feel in an instant.

I was sitting in my office on Monday afternoon, when my phone range – it was my wife.

Now that I have a 10-week old baby, every time my phone rings and it’s my wife, I get anxious.  I assume there’s something wrong.

Does that ever go away?

I picked up the phone, and she calmly said, “Somebody just got shot, dead, right outside our condo.”

And she added, “I want to move.  Now.”

That’s a reasonable request, given the circumstances.

And given the timeframe, ie. it happened literally minutes ago, I think it’s how many people would react.

But as I started my slow, grovelling, submission into our new housing search, my wife interrupted me and said, “I’m just kidding.  But seriously, this is pretty fucked up.”

News started to slowly roll out online, and all the media outlets said, “George & Adelaide.”

My condo, for those of you that don’t know, is at 112 George Street.  It comprises almost the entire city block bordered by George, Adelaide, Jarvis, and Richmond.

So when I heard “George & Adelaide,” I figured it was pretty close to us, but I didn’t get know exactly how close until much later.

A lot of the media outlets were saying “George Brown College,” as in “near” or “close to.”

So I simply assumed that this shooting took place, perhaps, on the south side of Adelaide, just east of George, across from the old Toronto Post House.

But as I would learn later, the media reports were simply saying “George Brown College” to try to give a geographic reference for readers.

My phone started buzzing as friends, colleagues, and even blog readers (crazy how everybody knows where I live, but my life is an open book), started to message me to see if I knew.

One friend even said, “Do you want me to go over to your place and check up on your wife?”

Then minutes later he wrote back, “That sounded really, really weird.  I had good intentions.”

My wife was fine, and soon our building sent out an email saying that the whole block was shut down as police were on site.

Having a father who was a criminal lawyer for 40 years, I know a thing or two about crime.

I knew right away, well, I knew and hoped, that this was a “hit;” that this was a targeted crime, and it left the rest of us out of it.

This wasn’t some mother-of three, or choir-boy, or pleasant senior citizen walking along, minding his or her own business, when suddenly some random, evil-doer decided to end it all for that law-abiding citizen.

Of that, I was certain.  And that’s how I rationalized it, despite how irrational a situation like this truly was.

I went about the rest of my day – I had no choice.

But it wasn’t until I came home around 8:30pm that what had happened, really sunk in.

I drove south on George Street, through Richmond, and past two police cars that were blocking the intersection, but letting residents of Vu and Post House pass through.

I drove under police tape, and past crime scene vehicles, forensic vans, and cop cars.

And that’s when I saw the reality of the situation; I saw an orange tarp.

And under that orange tarp was what used to be a person.

The “evidence markers” were everywhere.  Those little plastic stands with numbers on them that Gil Grissom and the team on C.S.I. place all over the scene – the street was littered with them.

And even though it was dark out, I could see a massive pool of blood on the street.  Two, in fact.

There was a giant overhead light shining down, as thirty police officers combed the grounds, looking for evidence.

Until now, I had no clue how close to home this really was.

This wasn’t “near” Adelaide & George.

This wasn’t even at Adelaide & George, ie. at the corner.

That orange tarp – the one with the body underneath, was literally on the sidewalk adjacent to the driveway of my building.

I’ve walked my dog past there.

I’ve walked my daughter past there.

I’ve sat on that very curb with my golf clubs, waiting for a buddy to pick me up on a nice summer day.

And once I learned that there were twelve gunshots aimed at this person, I realized that the mother-of three, or choir-boy, or pleasant senior citizen could have easily been hit by a bullet as the two perpetrators fired at will.

This was really, really close to home.

I went inside and found my wife feeding our daughter.  “Some day, huh?” I said as I kissed her hello.  “Crazy,” she said.  And that was pretty much the extent of our conversation.

The next day, I had a morning appointment, and decided to head back to the condo to park my car before showing a condo down the street.

As I drove north on George, I could see the orange, sawdust-type material that they poured on the pools of blood the night before to soak it up.  I’m not sure what it’s called, or even what it is – but think about what you pour on a chemical spill, or to cover gasoline at a gas station – there’s something they use for blood, I suppose.

It had snowed a bit that morning, and the orange/sawdust area had some snow on it.

I was waiting to pull into my driveway when I watched as a pedestrian crossed the street, and did that sort of “courtesy hop” that we do to show a car passing by that we’re not slagging – we’re going to give it one hop and skip to show we’re trying to speed up crossing the street.

And that courtesy hop, up onto the curb, was directly over the orange sawdust on the street.

That pedestrian just hopped over the site of a dead person, who had basically bled out on the street less than twenty-four hours earlier, and he had absolutely no idea.

I watched that person continue on.  He put ear-buds in his ears, and took some gloves out of his jacket pocket to put them on.  He fidgeted with his backpack as he continued on through the courtyard, and eventually he went out of frame.

That person had no idea.

In fact, many people that day, walked that same spot, and had no idea.

On Wednesday, I drove by again in the early evening, and the rain had washed away every piece of that orange sawdust, and there were no longer streaks of crimson lining the street.

There was absolutely no trace of what had happened on Monday.  It was merely a news story – one that was fading, and losing interest, with each passing day.

The world simply kept going, as it always does.

Seeing this spot on Wednesday, after seeing it one day previous on Tuesday, simply reaffirmed what I already felt: absolutely nothing.

Nothing.

I felt nothing.

Is that bad?

Is that normal?

Somebody was murdered in my driveway, and two days later, it was simply a footnote in my month?

January, 2017:
-went to a wedding
-sold a few properties
-saw my baby’s first smile
-somebody was murdered in my driveway
-put snow tires on my car

As I said at the onset, how I felt about this brutal act, to me, is even more shocking than the incident itself.

But perhaps that’s just the world we live in today.

Maybe things like this aren’t shocking anymore.

Maybe because society has become so involved with everybody, everywhere, we can always find something far worse, and thus whatever we are looking at, seems trivial on a relative and comparative basis.

Or maybe because, as we later learned, this was a targeted crime, and the parties involved were gang-members, we’re able to downplay it into almost nothing.

And thus perhaps the knowledge that “lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place” makes us simply overlook this incident entirely.

I started this blog writing about “safety” in Toronto, and in the areas in which we live, so let me finish along those lines.

Despite the fact that somebody was murdered in my driveway four days ago, I don’t feel any differently about the area in which I live.

I feel just as safe, and just as happy.

You might have heard the euphemism, “Something bad has to happen somewhere, at some point, to somebody.”

And as blasé as that might sound, I have to think this perfectly describes how a lot of residents of the area, and those in our building, are looking at this week’s events as we simply “move on”…

19 Comments

Post A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. downtown says:

    Some time ago (2 yrs?) a woman was attacked from behind and bashed over the head with a brick while walking at night a few steps from my house. I occasionally think about this while walking home at night. It freaked me out a bit, but I have to think it was a pretty random attack and not indicative of Toronto’s overall safety. Indeed, the chance of getting stuck by a car while crossing the road is much, much higher.

  2. Bugeyedbrit says:

    I can’t believe you really used this line?
    I tell people – my friends, family, clients, and especially the parents of clients, “King East and the ‘St. Lawrence Market area’ are super safe, and there’s a sort-of ‘invisible fence’ up at Richmond Street, that the rif-raff won’t pass.”

    Ok you’re not inviting them in for dinner, but do you have to refer to the Queen/Sherbourne crowd as rif raf ?

    Its not very becoming of you, I would have expected better from you.

    As to the substance of your piece, you experienced a true WTF moment, nothing brings into such clear view the reality of modern day life in a big city, sh!t will happen and sometimes happen near you, not a lot you can do about it, its up to you(and your wife) how you rationalize it (I speak as a former resident of the Sherbourne corridor, and now current resident of Parkdale/Roncesvalles), I used to worry about the sheer number of Police sirens I heard on a nightly basis, these days, they barely register.

  3. Mike says:

    This line tells me more about the market than any news or analyst report ever published could, “But as I started my slow, grovelling, submission into our new housing search”

  4. Condodweller says:

    Losing a life is always a bad thing, however, I agree that most of us tune out all the bad things happening around us. I think it has to do with us constantly evaluating the impact on us. This is why you’d rather have crime in someone else’s neighbourhood. Here’s a hypothetical question: If it was a family member that was shot in front of your building, would you still stay? I like it how you rationalized away gang members killing each other near your home.

    At the end of the day, all we can do is reduce the risks if possible, make our bets (pick a place to live, mode of transportation etc.) and hope for the best.

    I still think that the chances of getting killed due to crime in Toronto are very small, though having said that, as I often say people win the lottery almost every week.

  5. Marina says:

    I felt similarly with the murder in my neighbourhood a couple of years ago. Somebody was killed in front of a pizzeria in Lawrence Park.
    It’s sad but I don’t want it to impact the way I live my life with my kids.

    Think about horrific car crashes you drive by and you don’t think about them not an hour later. If you did it would paralyze you. Just human coping mechanisms at play.

  6. Joel says:

    The least safe part of this story is that you only put the winter tire on your car in January! I have walked by guys smoking crack near Moss park and the groups in front of that Dollarama and never felt unsafe.

    Riding the TTC is when I would generally feel less safe than walking anywhere in Toronto.

    1. Condodweller says:

      You have the right idea, hohwever, driving a car in the first place is the least safe part of the story. Winter tires have no effect on safety if you adjust your driving style to the conditions.

      1. Geoff says:

        But what about stopping power, for when other people don’t drive for the conditions? I never worry about me (standard transmission golf is pretty easy to drive, especially with snows) – but it’s nice to know when some idiot fishtails into my lane, I can move easy.

  7. Joe Q. says:

    If the media “thrives” on negative news, it’s because we (the media-consuming public) want them to.

    The moment people stop reading and commenting on negative news stories, the media will cease to carry them.

    1. Appraiser says:

      Sad, but true.

  8. Appraiser says:

    TREB sales data just released for January. Sales up year over year 11.8%. Average prices up 22.3%. New Listings down -17.6% but here’s the killer – Active listings down a whopping -49.5%.

    Here’s food for thought. There were 5,188 sales in January. There are currently just 5,034 active listings!

    1. Kyle says:

      Agreed, There is always a miniscule chance that any of us could be struck down anywhere in this city. Stories like the one above don’t really affect my feelings of safety in most parts of the City. What really impacts my feeling of safety is the frequency of less severe violent crimes happening, like being mugged, assaulted, accosted or harassed.

      1. Kyle says:

        That was meant to be a reply to Joel

  9. Ralph Cramdown says:

    With respect, that’s not a very safe area, relatively speaking. Toronto is a very safe city for its size, safer than even many smaller cities and towns, places with populations so small that a homicide every 20 years makes their average rate quite high.

    But stats are stats. I imagine the neighbourhood has gotten a bit nicer since I lived at Princess and The Esplanade, though.
    maps.torontopolice.on.ca/
    http://www.cbc.ca/toronto/features/crimemap/

    As an aside, I always find it a bit callous and offputting when the police say “it was targeted” or “the victim was known to police.” I understand the intent — to psychologically separate us the citizens from them the criminals, and suggest that we’ve got nothing to worry about, as if there’s two distinct worlds in the same city. Perhaps even to suggest that maybe it isn’t such a big deal if this particular victim got shot, or if his murder goes unsolved. Cold.

    1. Boris says:

      Exactly. California sandwich – remember that?

      These arent highly trained SEAL snipers. These are thugs who rarely practice shooting, firing an inaccurate pistol in a public area. Because its a hit does NOT make me feel better.

      1. Condodweller says:

        What are you saying? Police should offer combat training to gang members to reduce collateral damage?

        1. Boris says:

          When did I say that? Do you have a learning disability?

  10. Samantha says:

    Wow, this was deep!!! And here I thought we might get some funny pics on a Friday! 🙂

  11. Appraiser says:

    Safety , or the the illusion thereof is relative. For the month of January Toronto had 3 murders; Chicago had 51.

TWEETS