Issue brings organized crime closer to neighbourhoods
TORONTO, Oct. 29, 2014 /CNW/ - A new campaign being launched today asks for Ontarians to help law enforcement officials fight the growing problem of contraband tobacco and related organized crime.
Toronto Crime Stoppers and the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT) are asking the public for help.
"People can make a difference in their neighbourhoods and we really need their assistance," said former Metro Police Staff Superintendent Gary Grant, Chair of Toronto Crime Stoppers, "because this is getting out of control."
"In July, about 42% of cigarettes purchased in Ontario were contraband. The average over the year is also alarmingly high at 33%. That percentage is simply unacceptable."
Both organizations want members of the public to know that they can report information on contraband tobacco in their communities anonymously to Crime Stoppers and in some cases there may be cash rewards. Those who provide tips are never asked to give their name or testify in court.
Law enforcement officials are increasingly concerned that organized crime figures are using profits from contraband sales to fund other illegal activities in communities across Ontario. For example, a recent RCMP bust in London, Woodstock and Brantford seized $300,000 worth of contraband tobacco, along with 45 shotguns, almost 1,000 marijuana plants, cocaine, ketamine, hashish and ecstasy, along with multiple vehicles and $85,000 in cash. Many contraband tobacco busts involve similar inventories.
"Contraband tobacco is a cash cow for organized crime. The RCMP estimates that there are 175 organized crime groups involved in the trade. There's no doubt that these groups use profits from the lucrative trade to finance other criminal activities," said Jacqueline Bradley, Executive Director for the NCACT.
Both the federal and provincial governments are beginning to take some action. In Ottawa, Bill C-10 would allow police to lay criminal charges against contraband smugglers. Ontario is also beefing up enforcement through Bill 186, which allows police to seize contraband tobacco in plain view during their investigations, rather than going back to seek Ministry of Finance authority. NCACT encourages local police forces to enforce the new regulations and get contraband tobacco off the streets.
The new public awareness campaign includes a multi-medium advertising initiative, outreach to potential purchasers of contraband and information delivered to areas of Ontario with high incidences of contraband. It will continue through November.
Toronto Crime Stoppers offers guaranteed anonymity and may lead to a cash rewards if tips lead to an arrest. Members of the public can anonymously report information about a crime in their neighbourhood by calling 1-800-222-TIPS (or 8477).
Additionally, the NCACT would like to see members of the public ask their local MPP to support increased measures to combat the contraband tobacco problem by visiting stopcontrabandtobacco.ca.
ABOUT TORONTO CRIME STOPPERS
Crime Stoppers is a partnership of the public, police and media that provides the community with a proactive program for people to assist the police anonymously to solve crimes, thereby contributing to an improved quality of life.
Each week, the media appeals for information about unsolved crimes that are highlighted in television, radio spots, newspaper articles and in various social media outlets such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. Individuals who have any information that will assist investigators are encouraged to call Crime Stoppers at 416-222-8477 (TIPS) or toll free at 1-800-222-TIPS. Crime Stoppers takes information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Calls are not recorded and Crime Stoppers does not have call display, guaranteeing that your identity remains anonymous. People providing information will be given a secret code number. If your tip leads to an arrest, you may earn a cash reward of up to $2,000, which can be claimed with your code number. You will never be asked to identify yourself or testify in court.
SOURCE: Toronto Crime Stoppers