A recent finding from Ryerson student and Nectarine journalist, Adam Wilson, has revealed that crimes on Ryerson University’s campus have gone up by 86.6% since the opening of Toronto’s first safe injection site directly beside the campus on August 21st, 2017.
Wilson’s article and finding affirm what many students have felt but have been hesitant to mention publicly regarding this part of campus: it is becoming more dangerous, and you probably want to circumvent this area on your way to class in the early morning, and at night or avoid being on campus at night altogether.
As a student at Ryerson, though I have not been directly affected by the increase in criminal activity, I have enough friends to personally know many who have experienced attempted muggings (sometimes by entire groups), theft, and being propositioned for the sale of drugs. And though Ryerson Security is constantly patrolling the area, the problem is quickly getting out of hand.
Indirectly Managing the Problem – The Last Year on Campus
Across the street from the injection site is a Tim Hortons where, until recently, many homeless had taken up residence, bringing their few belongings and sleeping bags to set up makeshift living spaces. These people were mostly harmless and would often hold the door open in hopes of receiving spare change or food as students exited the establishment.
However, after the injection site opened, many drug addicts began moving to this location, and students began avoiding this Tim Hortons, prompting the owners to install planters where the homeless resided in hopes of deterring their continued stay.
As a private business, Tim Hortons has every right to take such actions. However, the introduction of planters has had an adverse effect, actually compounding the problem, with more homeless and drug users migrating across the street, just outside the Victoria building, where an entire sub-community has emerged.
After this move, Ryerson fenced off part of the garden platform attached to the Victoria building which many had begun sleeping on, likely in response to the finding of used needles in the Chang School of Continuing Education’s assignment box.
Though, this has also proved ineffective in deterring those who wish to live directly outside the injection site.
Over the last year, it has become an open secret that this part of campus is where most of the crime at Ryerson stems from. Nearly every morning, the Toronto Police Service now must station a cruiser between the injection site and the campus as a momentary deterrent until the remainder of Ryerson’s security arrive to begin monitoring this area themselves. However, it isn’t unusual for the police to need to return throughout the day.
While many students (myself included) are empathetic to the plight of both the homeless and those suffering from drug addiction, this empathy is slowly being chipped away by the reality of the situation and the danger it presents.
Notable Crimes over Recent Months
To put things in perspective, here are a few very recent incidents to illustrate this point:
- Saturday, May 19th, 2018 at approximately 02:05 am a student was assaulted with a liquor bottle after refusing to give an individual a cigarette.
- Thursday, June 7th, 2018 at approximately 3:15 pm a friend of a student was stalked, grabbed, and groped while walking through campus.
- Saturday, June 9th, 2018 at approximately 1:50 pm police arrested a man in possession of a gun just outside of Ryerson’s Student Learning Centre.
- Saturday, June 16th, 2018 at approximately 07:50 pm a member of the public was assaulted and had their phone stolen.
- Sunday, June 17th, 2018 at approximately 02:45 am a member of the public was assaulted by two individuals wielding either a bolt cutter or wrench.
- Monday, July 2nd, 2018 at approximately 10:20 pm a member of the public was assaulted with a brick by an individual who then fled campus.
The incident which stood out to me the most occurred on Tuesday, June 5th, 2018 at approximately 11:55 am – ‘Assault with a Weapon (bicycle)’ does tend to raise eyebrows.
An individual was seen screaming (not an unusual happening in downtown Toronto) and a student decided to walk away from the scene.
Logically, this individual took this act as a slight against them and proceeded to pick up the nearest bicycle and throw it at the back of the student’s head. Paramedics needed to be called, and no arrest, to our knowledge, has been made.
There are many more incidents, albeit less ridiculous, which haven’t been mentioned, but the frequency of crimes, as well as the range of times, should be noted.
Frankly, it is a rare occurrence to have a week go by without some type of criminal activity occurring on campus. Much of this can be attributed to the campus being in downtown Toronto – a city which, as a whole, is experiencing an increase in crime.
However, it would take optimism bordering delusion to think that the introduction of the safe injection site hasn’t contributed to Ryerson’s own problems.
While compassion for the downtrodden is an undeniable virtue, a university’s first duty is in the maintaining of an environment conducive to learning, and this is beginning to be undermined.