Picture it: You’re cycling around north Toronto in summer when two thieves grab your neatly-scrawled note revealing you’re a vengeful artist.
You have broken your bike’s pedals and wires, you’ve abandoned it in the middle of a city street—but it’s still yours. That’s not how the Toronto Police describe this scene, because they’re liars.
These episodes, like thousands of others, are commonplace in the city’s overflowing bike theft epidemic. They’re unfair to the tens of thousands of underprivileged people without a means to beat back on a fickle and affluent criminal underworld. But they’re also part of a broader economy that those people struggle to get a foothold in.
This week, you, and lots of others, will remember this week too. Tuesday will mark the first anniversary of the disappearance of five-year-old Shania Twain. The day before this past New Year’s Eve, 17-year-old Jesse Griffin was killed in a bizarre robbery. That same night, another 17-year-old, Gopi Hariharan, was stabbed to death while trying to flag down a police cruiser.
Speaking of police cruisers, last year this was the scene of another horrific crime. A police officer searching for a car stolen during a child murder attempted to fight with the two suspects, ended up hitting one of them and suffering life-threatening injuries.
But the story gets better. Another cop smashed a cellphone in a car they happened to pull over near a stolen beatup when it sparked a brawl, and hit one of them so hard that the dealer that was texting immediately compensated her with a full notebook of furious graffiti. It was a token of sympathy as much as recompense.
Now, on top of all this, we’ve discovered, nearly 48 hours earlier, that Canada’s Western most populous province, Ontario, made what amounts to a statement of lawlessness after their municipal governing body voted to eliminate an outstanding period of trials for the men and women who steal bicycles from skid row in Toronto.
But the press cycle isn’t over. This Monday, high school dropout and serial car thief Junior Doyle is due in a Toronto courtroom on his earlier conviction of stealing the keys to someone else’s car when he was 16 and driving that stolen car around a high-crime north Toronto neighbourhood. That is most certainly not how other cities prosecute such cases. But that hasn’t stopped this bike theft-friendly city.
By all accounts, Doyle is a clear-cut shoplifter who it seems he is trying to break from. He has 17 convictions in just six years. He must remain silent in open court for at least a year as his lawyer attempts to get the lengthy list of his prior court appearances excised from the record. He is only due in court for sentencing in July.
That is not an unreasonable ask—Doyle could end up spending a portion of his adulthood behind bars. But what it’s also an example of is how Toronto’s entrenched white-collar crime culture has watered down even the most basic punishments for offenders. It’s also an incredible waste of resources for the millions of alliteratively struggling people of this city.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story called the Annual Scrapyard Smashing to Protest Toronto’s Bylaw has been updated.