Dozens of people have been arrested and hundreds of criminal charges laid, police say, in connection with with a yearlong investigation into cross-border gun trafficking.
At a news conference hosted by Toronto police Tuesday morning, investigators announced the arrest of 42 people, 442 criminal charges laid and the seizure of 173 guns in Canada and the United States. Three of those arrested are youths, police say.
The joint forces investigation was conducted by Toronto police, York Regional Police, Durham Regional Police Service, Ontario Provincial Police, the Canada Border Services Agency and the American Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
“We are all battling the same challenges, illegal guns coming from the United States,” York Regional Police Deputy Chief Alvaro Almeida said at the press conference.
87 guns seized in U.S., 86 in Canada
In one instance, 87 handguns destined for Canada were seized in Chicago, according to police. The guns were covered in bubble wrap, wrapped in holiday paper and hidden in suitcases.
An additional 86 firearms were seized in the GTA.
Of the 42 Canadians arrested, over half were from Toronto, police say. Others were from Barrie, Ont., Pickering, Ont., Whitby, Ont. and Winnipeg.
“One firearm, one round, results in the death of a person on our streets, so this is a very significant seizure,” said Toronto police Supt. Steven Watts.
Police said the guns being shipped to Canada originated in Florida, Ohio, Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia and Texas, where they would have been purchased legally.
Drugs and accessories also seized
Asked how the guns were making their way to Canada, Watts said, “[We have the] largest undefended border in the world, right? We all know that. So there’s a variety of smuggling techniques that are used.”
Once across the border, the guns can be sold for up to a 500 per cent markup, Watts said.
“So there’s a demand for them and they’re sold to different individuals, different organized crime groups,” he said.
In addition to the firearms seized, investigators say they seized 1,454 rounds of ammunition, three sets of body armour, three auto switches — tools that turn semiautomatic firearms into automatic weapons — and 45 over-capacity magazines, which is a handgun magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds.
The investigation also resulted in the seizure of 1.5 kilograms of fentanyl, police say, which carries a street value of approximately $300,000, plus 1.8 kilograms of cocaine, carrying a street value of $190,000.