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Rosie DiManno: Tow truck involvement is a startling wrinkle in Toronto’s turf wars

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The triangulation of Project Kraken:

Guns. Fentanyl. Tow trucks.

And – common denominator – the Chester Le Side gang.

Not as notoriously known as other Toronto gangbangers but with a violent history that extends back to at least 2005. Turf wars with rivals such as the Galloway Boyz, the Malvern Crew and the Ardwick Blood Crew, as per Project Flicker, a lengthy police investigation that targeted gang activity 14 years ago.

So, when Police Chief Mark Saunders says that “no one is born a gang member,’’ it’s a true statement, obviously. But sometimes it’s also a generational phenomenon. Following in the footsteps.

Raids are conducted, guys get charged, defendants cycle through the justice system, they’re replaced in a gang hierarchy or resume their roles upon release from prison and nothing much changes.

Which is not to say that sweeping raids are useless. There is probably a greater sense of safety in the swath of northeast Toronto where the Chester Le outfit rules – rooted primarily in public housing complexes around Victoria Park and Finch Avenue – following a multi-agency swarming in the early morning hours on Thursday. If history proves anything, however, it’s that Chester Le – named for Chester Le Blvd. in Scarborough — will reconstitute itself, shape-shifting in its ranks, to despoil the neighbourhood again.

Kick down doors, slap on cuffs, throw the indictment book at suspects (73 people facing 599 charges), scoop up firearms (23 guns seized), haul in a treasure trove of drugs (estimated street value $400,000) and an urban blight dwindles, a community can breathe again. Any lasting transformation is a mirage, though. For which cops can’t be blamed because there are no enduring solutions, from a law enforcement perspective. “Any thoughts we are going to arrest our way out of this are ludicrous,’’ Saunders said.

Gangbangers aren’t oafish. They can be quite ingenious. Sniffing out opportunities, aligning with abettors, cutting deals with accomplices – willing accessories in the commission of crimes, in the pursuit of profits.

Which brings us to tow trucks, a startling wrinkle disclosed at Friday’s police press conference.

Seven tow truck drivers arrested in the sweep that, across the board, racked up charges ranging from allegedly widespread fentanyl trafficking operations, possession of illegal........

© Toronto Star