Toronto police enforcement teams laid more than 200 charges in first week responding to large gatherings

A logo at the Toronto Police Services headquarters, in Toronto, on Friday, August 9, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

A number of dedicated enforcement teams that are tapped with responding to calls about large gatherings laid more than 200 charges during their first week of operation, Toronto police say.

Toronto Police announced the creation of enforcement teams in each of their 16 divisions last week amid a push by the Ford government to ensure greater compliance with the stay-at-home order.

In a news release issued on Friday, police said that the teams have responded to a total of 315 incidents since April 22, including 105 calls for gatherings this week alone.

They laid 230 charged under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act in their first week of operation, the release notes.

“The pandemic presents both public health and public safety risks. We have an enforcement team in every division across the city and officers are dispersing large gatherings daily and laying charges against those who are ignoring the emergency order,” Inspector Matt Moyer warned in the release.

“As we head in to the weekend, we are discouraging anyone who is thinking of attending or hosting a gathering, and reminding them that, if they do, they may very well expect the police in attendance as well. Please work with us to keep the city safe. Don't attend parties or large gatherings. Stay home and stay safe."

Premier Doug Ford initially handed police sweeping powers to arbitrarily stop and question people to ensure compliance with the stay-at-home order but he reversed that decision less than 24 hours later and later apologized for making it in the first place.

Nonetheless, Toronto police have reiterated that they will not be conducting random stops of people or cars and that individuals “are not compelled to explain why they are out of their residence” to their officers.

Instead, police say that the enforcement teams are largely focused on “large indoor events being held at short-term rentals, and in closed bars and restaurants,” where there is an increase risk of contracting COVID-19.

They say that while many of the calls they receive have been clustered in the downtown core, officers are responding to illegal gatherings across the city.