POLITICS

Female cops were in 'harm's way' to arrest boy in Toronto sex assaults

10/22/2012 11:19 EDT | Updated 12/22/2012 05:12 EST
TORONTO - Young female police officers who went undercover and put themselves in "harm's way" are being credited with the arrest of a 15-year-old boy following a string of sex assaults that have terrorized a Toronto neighbourhood since the summer.

"We had women in our organization who put themselves in harm's way, who went out in that community and put themselves at risk, knowing that if they were successful in their mission, they could also be the victim of an assault," said police chief Bill Blair in announcing the arrest Monday.

"As a result of their courage, this investigation has been successfully concluded.”

Toronto police said the boy, who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was arrested Saturday night and is now facing 14 counts of sexual assault and two counts of criminal harassment.

Since mid-August, police have received 16 reports of sexual assault incidents in the downtown west-end neighbourhood.

The accused, who was not previously known to police, was arrested around 11 p.m. at the scene of the most recent alleged attack.

He appeared in Toronto youth court on Monday.

Blair said in most of the cases, women told police they had been approached from behind and were sexually assaulted by a male who then fled.

He would not go into more detail about the nature of the assaults, citing that the case is now before the courts.

The police chief also would not say the arrest came as a result of a "sting" operation, only that it came following the diligent work of a large group of officers.

"(We had) our people working around the clock and left no stone unturned," he said.

The police hope this arrest brings a sense of security back to the community.

"These crimes that took place throughout the month of August and then later in the fall caused a tremendous amount of fear within our community," said Blair.

"Fear, particularly among women, and their sense of safety in their own neighbourhood was taken from them as a result of these crimes."

Staff Insp. Mary Lee Metcalfe, commander of the sex crimes unit, says it is unusual for a youth to be accused of such serious charges.

"It is not something that we encounter on a regular basis but in this particular set of occurrences, we are confident that we have the proper person charged and before the courts," she said.

Police said a search warrant was also executed late Sunday but would not disclose the location.

Following the arrest, officers notified each of the victims, with the last one contacted early Monday morning.

Investigators said their probe is ongoing, and asked anyone who may have been victimized to come forward.

"We're not going away. (Officers are) going to continue to be present in that community, visible in that community and working hard to maintain the safety of that community," said Blair.

He added that he is limited in what he can say due to the age of the accused.