Esplanade businesses suffer vandalism

By Daryl Gonsalves

Walking down The Esplanade or visiting David Crombie Park, you cannot miss local businesses with boarded up windows or even front doors from glass broken by vandalism and, in some cases, robberies. This has led to businesses taking more precautions and residents to call for proactive action from the City of Toronto.

In neighbourhood social media groups, many residents have blamed the Novotel homeless shelter at 45 The Esplanade. But the shelter, run by the Homes First agency, employs a community safety team that patrols the area every hour to ensure the safety of their clients and the community.

Having spoken with Novotel’s safety team, whose members advocate for the conduct of their clients, they cautioned that conclusions can only be drawn with concrete evidence. Indeed, other social media comments and interviews suggest individuals with sophisticated equipment could be behind these incidents.

Complaints from the community prompted Kristyn Wong-Tam, who recently stepped down as Ward 13’s city councillor, Homes First and the Toronto Police Service (51 Division) to investigate the situation and explore solutions.

Toronto Police operate a Public Safety Open Data Portal that reports on major crime indicators or MCI: assault, auto theft, break and enter, homicide, robbery, sexual violation and theft. At the time of writing, Toronto Police have recorded MCI for this year up until May 29, 2022. Filtering for the district that captures The Esplanade, known by police as the Waterfront Communities, 51 Division reports MCI for the current 2022 calendar year has already surpassed the MCI records for the same period in 2021 by 27.4%. In fact, the Waterfront Communities has so far reported the highest total number of offences (740) compared to other police districts.

Regardless, some residents question if businesses will leave the neighbourhood. Many Esplanade business owners say they continue to operate because they love their community. Some are installing shatterproof glass to protect against future vandalism.

GoodGood and Berkeley Cafe, two new businesses on the street, remain optimistic about the neighbourhood and spoke about new offerings to keep customers coming to their doors. GoodGood is a cafe and wine bar, while Berkeley Cafe offers hot beverages, pastries and sandwiches.

Surveying neighbourhood social media groups, residents continue to support local businesses as they recover from pandemic restrictions. Residents can voice their concerns, including leads on crime, to 51 Division by calling 416-808-5100.