Toronto #police warn of #social media #risks for #teens after string of #parties turn #violent


While teen parties themselves are nothing new, both Hogan and his colleague, Const. Alex Li, who works in crime prevention and community relations at 53 Division, said news of parties can spread much further through social media.

Toronto police issued a handful of warnings about the risks of social media for teens at a town hall event Tuesday that drew more than 50 concerned parents and residents to Rosedale United Church.

The event, organized by the North Rosedale and neighbouring residents associations, was an opportunity for the community to discuss safety and social media use among midtown teenagers following a series of park parties in the neighbourhood that turned violent.

Staff Sgt. James Hogan of Toronto Police’s 53 Division said slower response time to complaints about noisy parties is largely a result of stretched resources. The police spend thousands of hours responding to mental health calls, which is important he noted, but can tie them up for hours at hospital because they can’t hand over custody. Those types of things can delay response to events like noisy parties, which he described as a mid-priority call.

However, police responded to a call about a robbery that took place at one park party this fall in five minutes, he said.

Providing as much information about a call can help police determine its priority listing. A call about drug use or intoxicated or unconscious teenagers will be given a higher priority than one about a noisy party, Hogan said.

“We can’t be effective if we don’t know what we need to know,” he said.

While teen parties themselves are nothing new, both Hogan and his colleague, Const. Alex Li, who works in crime prevention and community relations at 53 Division, said news of parties can spread much further through social media.

“The internet and social media have no boundaries,” Li said, adding that people with even a little tech savvy can find out where they are and people from outside the local area are making their way there.

“I am concerned about it,” said Victoria Elliott, who brought her 13-year old son, Kalen Gibbons, to the event with her so he could hear what the police and others had to say.

“When you hear of a child being stabbed who’s only 15 in your neighbourhood, yeah that’s a little bit worrisome I would say,” Elliott said, noting she has two older stepdaughters who used to attend parties in Rosedale and the ravine.

“They said there were a lot of kids who would be really messed up,” she said.

“As a parent, especially now with social media you don’t always know where they are, they can tell one friend about something and then the next thing you know a hundred of those people’s friends and other friends end up showing up,” she said, adding she wished more teens had come to event Tuesday evening.

A handout provided at the town hall shows the number of robberies in the Rosedale-Moore neighbourhood in the last year has increased. By this time last year 12 robberies had taken place, versus 19 this year, a 58 per cent increase. The number of break-and-enters and assaults have also increased by 18 and 5 per cent respectively. The year-over-year rate of reported sexual assault, meanwhile, decreased by 50 per cent and auto theft went down 60 per cent.

Jessica Green, who runs a public relations company, offered tips for how to use social media safely and positively.

Always think before you post, she said. Ask yourself is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it necessary? And finally, is it kind?

Nothing on social media can ever be truly deleted, she said, adding they’re either stored on a server somewhere or may have been screen-capped.

“We can see how deleting tweets has worked for Donald Trump,” she said. “Not so well.”

The town-hall followed a series of parties in the area that resulted in robberies and other criminal activity, including one that local teen gossip site Miss Informed dubbed the “Rosedale Jam” on Sept. 16.

Several emergency calls were made that night from the Rosedale Park area reporting stabbings, assaults, robberies and unconscious teens. The party had been advertised across social media.

The suspects include eight to 10 teens wearing hoodies and bandanas across their faces and police believe they’ve attended several parties to conduct similar robberies.

Fifteen-year-old Isaiah Witt was stabbed and killed at another party on Oct. 7 at Stan Wadlow Park, which police confirmed Tuesday is being investigated as part of their larger investigation into park parties in the area. Four men were arrested and two men aged 18 and 19 are facing second-degree murder charges.

A statement posted to Miss Informed on Friday said though the site doesn’t take responsibility for the parties, it wouldn’t be posting about the events anymore.

With files from Victoria Gibson, Samantha Beattie, and Tamar Harris

 

Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply