LISA MACNEILL & SAMANTHA O’CONNOR
Rexdale has a reputation as one of the most dangerous areas in Toronto, but many students who come to Humber College and The University Of Guelph-Humber are not aware of the amount of crime that takes place here on a regular basis.
Rexdale resident and self-proclaimed retired hustler, Stones* said that students are naïve to the amount of crime in the area, and are considered easy targets for robberies and assault because of their lack of streets smarts.
“They [Street involved youth] see these kids, they see food – a bunch of rich kids that don’t know where the hell they are. They don’t know that they’re in the ghetto,” he said
Students face dangers on and off campus everyday, because of where the school is located. In 2005, Toronto’s City Council named the area as one of the GTA’s 13 priority neighbourhoods according to the Pathways Education Network.
“Down here, random stuff will happen, like, people think that bad stuff doesn’t happen to good people, but bad stuff happens to good people,” Stones said.
Many students, they say, have been victim to harassment, assault, and theft since they moved to Rexdale to attend school and over 10 student houses have been robbed in the last two months, according to recent accounts in the neighborhood.
Kristie Greco, a second year Kinesiology student lives in the subdivision across from the campus. Her house has been robbed twice since Thanksgiving.
The latest was around 7pm last Monday night, while Greco and her roommates were out of the house. Whoever broke in came through the bedroom window, and took three Mac laptops, two IPods, and a charging dock. The police were notified but took four hours to arrive at the scene. “Don’t take any suspicious activity too lightly,” said Greco.
Stones also says that the subdivision directly across from Humber doesn’t really count as Rexdale, that there are certain areas that the real thugs live.
“I need to tell you the honest truth, the real guys are seriously in Rexdale, in Martin Grove, Kipling and in Jamestown, they don’t leave those places, you know? They don’t
come to Humber College.” He says although everyone is a target.
Students need to understand that there are differences in lifestyle and mentality between Humber and Guelph-Humber students, and those who have grown up in the area. Stones says that there really isn’t any way to prevent being mugged, that some people rob people just for the sake of robbing, “If someone sees someone, and you have something that they want, it’s gonna get taken… that’s just it.”
For Rexdale residents, gang activity, shootings and robberies are a part of everyday life, according to published estimates. There are seven main Rexdale gangs, with the majority affiliated with the Crips. “Like, some people, everyday they put their books in their bags, some people around here strap a gun to their hip,” Stones said.
An officer from the 23rd Division who did not want to disclose his name says that students should “know the surroundings, and know whom you’re dealing with” to ensure their safety when leaving campus.
Norah Roberts, a third year Guelph-Humber student studying Public Relations says during her first year in 2008, she had a bad experience.
“I lived on residence, and a bunch of us girls were walking in the subdivision across the road, when two guys started following us. We got a bad feeling, so we started running. Then, they started chasing us. It got really scary, when a car with four more guys started slowly driving beside us, following us. They ended up leaving us alone, but not without scaring us first.”
Local rapper/producer Casper Tha Deadly Ghost was born and raised in the area, and said that if you “be cool, stick to yourself, and act respectful”, you will be less likely to have someone bother you.
Other safety precautions students can take include, walking in open, lit areas, and talking on the phone when they are alone, but this does not guarantee that nothing will happen.
“You can walk confident as much as you want, if someone sees someone, and you have something that they want, it’s gonna get taken,”…”There’s guys out here that take shit just to take shit…It’s different, it could be for anything still, could be for money. I know a guy that robs shit just to rob shit. He has two gat in his pocket just to rob you.”
According to Stones, adding more security guards on campus won’t make much of a difference in terms of student safety. He calls them Robo-Cops.
“What would they have? Batons? You could put more security guards, more cops, it wouldn’t help. People are hustlin’ for money to feed themselves. If they don’t hustle, they don’t eat.”
He says the only thing that will diminish the amount of crime, is an end to poverty, which he doesn’t see ever happening.
The police source agrees that poverty is not coming to an end, and it’s hard for people to avoid criminal acts.
“It’s very hard to live in those neighbourhoods, with a gang mentality and keep on the straight and narrow, despite your best efforts, because you have to worry about yourself the whole time.”
He also urges students to report any illegal activity they see and assures that tips will always be kept anonymous.
*Some names have been changed to protect the identity of interviewees, some of whom were known personally by the reportorial team.
Photo Taken by Kayla Cameron-Redyk