Normal police operations resume following 'potential risk to public safety'
Codi Wilson, CP24.com
Published Thursday, July 12, 2018 9:58AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, July 12, 2018 11:47PM EDT
Toronto police say they have now returned to normal operations after bolstering their presence in the downtown core most of Thursday in response to an unconfirmed risk to public safety.
In a statement released late Thursday, police said they have now resumed normal operations and thanked the public for their understanding.
“We know this heightened security can be concerning for the public,” the statement read. “Our goal is always to be as transparent as possible while protecting the integrity of our investigations.”
The statement said people will continue to see a police presence around the Rogers Centre as part of their 2018 downtown security plan.
Late Thursday, Mayor John Tory also issued a statement via Twitter thanking police for their work to ensure public safety and thanking “all our residents & visitors for remaining calm throughout the day.”
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A bulletin sent to Toronto police officers on Thursday afternoon revealed that there was “unconfirmed and uncorroborated information of a threat” to tourist attractions in the Greater Toronto Area.
The bulletin was obtained by CTV News Toronto and suggests that the information was received by police on Wednesday.
Police cruisers and bicycles were seen parked Thursday around a number of downtown landmarks, including the CN Tower, the Rogers Centre, Ripley’s Aquarium, Scotiabank Arena, and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Officers with the Emergency Task Force were also spotted around the Rogers Centre on Thursday.
York Regional Police confirmed officers were patrolling Canada’s Wonderland and multiple other unidentified locations as well.
The Toronto police bulletin to officers stated that they had no information on the identity of the perpetrators or if they are affiliated with a known extremist group.
“There is no information on the nature of this threat, tactics employed by extremists have included the use of vehicles, small arms, knives and/or explosives,” the bulletin read.
“Intelligence Services — Security Section is continuing to liaise with partner agencies and at this time there is no corroborating information that validates this threat. Tourist centres, areas of large public gatherings, and critical infrastructure remain as vulnerable targets for terrorist/extremist groups and their sympathizers who wish to stage high-profile attacks."
Speaking to reporters late Thursday morning, Insp. Michael Barsky said an increased number of officers in the downtown core today was due to a “potential risk to public safety.”
Pressed for details, Barksy would not elaborate.
“We are not going to comment on anything as it relates to investigations,” he said.
An unapproved draft operational plan that was obtained by media Thursday suggested that the threat was related to a possible “vehicle ramming attack” and urged officers to be vigilant in the area around the CN Tower.
Toronto police spokesperson Meaghan Gray would not confirm if any details mentioned in the unapproved draft operational plan were accurate.
“We will not release any specific details of the information we have received,” Gray said, echoing Barksy's comments.
"Our officers were provided with (the) most up to date/accurate info this morning, as was (the) public. Our current policing response in (the) downtown core is appropriate based on the info we have. We will update (the) public as necessary," a tweet by Toronto police read.
In a statement released by U-Haul on Thursday, Sebastien Reyes, the vice-president of communications for the company, said they were contacted by Ontario Provincial Police on July 11.
"U-Haul was one of many companies contacted by the Ontario Provincial Police on July 11 with a request to remain vigilant in reporting suspicious activity in the Toronto area," Reyes said. "As a result, and at the request of the police, U-Haul issued a reminder to our Ontario Team Members to continue being mindful of suspicious behavior and reiterated instructions on how to report such behavior to police."
Barsky said police take all risks to public safety “seriously.”
“The police presence in this area is simply to ensure that the public can enjoy and come down to this area unimpeded and without any worry,” Barksy said.
“As we know the downtown core of Toronto is a significant area for people who travel to the city, live in the city, and come to visit the city and as such we’ve called upon our partners from neighbouring police divisions to come and assist us.”
Barksy would not say where the information about the risk came from.
“Because it is a potential risk that is something that from an investigative standpoint we have to continue to monitor. If we could provide more specifics, we would certainly be forthwith with that,” he added.
He also noted that police are encouraging members of the public to report anything suspicious.
“If somebody sees something out of place or out of the norm to them, then to them it is suspicious and we’d like them to do their due diligence in reporting that to police so that we can take an opportunity to see if there is anything more to that,” he said.
News of the risk came early Thursday morning when the Toronto Police Service issued a tweet about “a piece of information” relating to the GTA.
When asked if police set off alarm bells unnecessarily, Barksy said he would not “speculate” on the public’s reaction.
“I’m not going to speculate on how people are going to interpret the (tweet). What I will say is we are still encouraging people to come down and enjoy the venues throughout the city,” he added.
Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack said when it comes to releasing information police must first determine how it will impact the investigation and public safety.
“We’ve got a great group of intelligence officers and they are analyzing every bit of intelligence they have… As that information becomes available to get out to the public, where it doesn’t compromise the investigation or public safety, then they will let it out,” he said.
“We continually assess the risk and if the public needs more information that is not going to be critical to the investigation, it gets released.”
Mayor John Tory's office said the mayor was "briefed" about the situation by Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders this morning.
"He will be continuing to monitor the situation," the mayor's office said in a statement. "We have no further comment at this time and all questions should be directed to Toronto Police."
The Ontario premier's office also released a statement Thursday, saying they were aware of the "reported potential threat."
"While the information is unsubstantiated, the Premier has been briefed by the Provincial Security Advisor and is actively monitoring the situation," the statement read. "Our officials remain in close contact with federal and municipal security partners."
RCMP not involved in the investigation
Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale sent out a tweet confirming that federal agencies were aware of the "heightened police presence in the GTA."
"As per normal policing arrangements, (federal agencies) stand ready to assist if necessary," Goodale said.
The RCMP said it is not currently involved in the investigation.
Speaking to CP24, the Peel Regional Police Service said they have not been contacted by Toronto police and the situation “does not involve” them.
Durham Regional Police said they have also not been in contact with Toronto police.
Canada's Wonderland sent out a statement Thursday morning confirming that York Regional Police officers were on site.
"We are aware of unspecified and uncorroborated information regarding venues in the GTA. Canada’s Wonderland officials are working with York Region Police and continue to take their guidance on this matter," the statement read, adding that the park is still open today.
York Regional Police confirmed they have deployed additional officers around the region "as a precaution."
"Public safety is our primary concern and we are working closely with our emergency service partners across the GTA as we investigate and respond to the information we have received," York Regional Police's statement read.