Toronto investigators knew about an ongoing relationship between Mayor Rob Ford and the men he's seen posing with in a widely publicized photograph that has ties to his alleged drug use, police sources tell CBC News.

Two of the men pictured with Ford were arrested Thursday in a series of pre-dawn raids targeting guns and gangs in the city's west end. A third man in the photo, Anthony Smith, was shot dead outside a King Street nightclub two months ago.

The massive bust involved 17 different police agencies, which searched 30 locations in Toronto along with others in Windsor, Guelph and Waterloo, Ont.

Among the addresses targeted was 15 Windsor Rd., the house at which Ford was photographed posing with Smith and the other two men. Another address searched by police was the family home of Muhammad Khattak, who is on the far right of the photo.

The operation, dubbed Project Traveller, involved police knocking down doors and in some cases using stun grenades to rouse suspects from their beds and make multiple arrests.

The investigation began in June 2012 and targeted drug activity of a gang known as the Dixon Bloods, that Toronto police Chief Bill Blair said operated along Dixon Road between Kipling and Islington Avenues in northwest Toronto. Blair said there were criminal connections that reached as far west as Alberta.

In a press conference, Blair cited a number of successes of the "complex investigation" that he said will make streets safer including:

- 19 arrests in Toronto, nine more in Windsor, Ont., a total of 19 warrants issued.

- 40 firearms seized.

- $3 million in narcotics seized.

- More than $572,000 in cash seized.

“We can make a difference by incapacitating the most violent of offenders,” said Blair. “We know many families that have lost their sons to violence.”

He said the investigation is connected to drug distribution but also violent crimes including murder, attempted murder and robbery. Blair also said the arrests will have implications "far beyond this neighbourhood."

One of the addresses searched in Thursday’s pre-dawn raids was 320 Dixon Rd.

That address is reportedly the location mentioned in reports suggesting drug dealers may have stashed an alleged video showing Ford smoking crack cocaine.

The Dixon Road building is steps away from a house on Windsor Road linked to a picture of Ford that appears to show the mayor posing with suspected drug dealers. That photo was shown to journalists by people trying to sell the alleged video.

The alleged video has yet to surface, but the allegations have caused upheaval at Toronto City Hall since the story first broke in mid-May.

Reporters asked Blair repeatedly about connections to Toronto’s embattled mayor, but Blair said he couldn’t comment about anyone connected to the raids for fear of jeopardizing future prosecutions.

“The only place for the disclosure of this information is in a court of law,” Blair said. “All this evidence will come out in court where it belongs.”

Blair said police are aware of the allegations surrounding the Ford video, and that he is "monitoring the situation."

Blair said there will be another news conference on Friday that will include and update the arrests.

Blair also said police will post officers in the Dixon Road area to answer residents' questions about the raids.

“We know how traumatic it can be when those raids take place in the dark of night, when doors are going crashing down and when concussion flash bangs are also ignited in their neighbourhoods,” he said.

'You know as much as I do' Ford tells reporters

Ford was asked about the raids as he arrived at city hall on Thursday morning, and said he first heard about them on the radio news as he drove in to work.

"The cable was out last night. I know as much as you do," he told reporters. "I've not been in touch with the chief. Your guess is as good as mine on what happened last night.

"I support the police 100 per cent."

The raid at 320 Dixon began just before 5 a.m. Thursday, after dozens of officers assembled at a nearby staging area before charging into the apartment building.

The searches shut down the area around Dixon Road for more than an hour.

"Loud bangs were heard from inside the building, possibly stun grenades or doors being knocked down," the CBC's Trevor Dunn reported.

Police were seen leading people out of the building in handcuffs and into police vehicles.

Guns crossing border

In the hours after the raid began, boxes of evidence were also seen being wheeled out of the building by police.

CBC News has seen a copy of one of the search warrants issued for an apartment at 320 Dixon Rd. The warrant allows police to search and seize cellphones, laptop computers and other electronic devices as well as items and documents related to the distribution of controlled substances and banking documents.

- 9 arrested in Windsor during massive guns, drugs sweep

Over 150 officers from the Ontario Provincial Police, Windsor police, and Sarnia police arrested nine people who were to be transported back to Toronto for a court appearance on Friday.

Windsor's Deputy Police Chief John St. Louis said police made nine arrests of area residents who are known to police.

Blair said the Dixon City Bloods have been trafficking guns across the Detroit-Windsor border.

Canada Border Services Agency declined to comment Thursday.

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  • 'Wrecking Ball' Ford

    Check out <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfXPPjCMLOI" target="_blank">the soundtrack</a>. <a href="http://imgur.com/pDO1anT" target="_blank">From Imgur</a>

  • Drinking And Driving

    We saw that, Rob. <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/bennyjohnson/let-wrecking-ball-show-you-the-true-beauty-of-rob-ford" target="_blank">From Buzzfeed</a>

  • Muuah!

    Ford blows us a kiss. <a href="http://twitchy.com/2013/11/08/the-gif-that-keeps-on-gifing-15-hilarious-must-see-rob-ford-moments/" target="_blank">From Twitchy</a>

  • Ford vs. Hulk Hogan

    We still can't believe he won, either. <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/bennyjohnson/let-wrecking-ball-show-you-the-true-beauty-of-rob-ford" target="_blank">From Buzzfeed</a>

  • Bongos

    <a href="http://o.canada.com/news/rob-ford-toronto-summer-of-ford/" target="_blank">Best summer ever</a>. <a href="http://i.imgur.com/AiflEHJ.gif" target="_blank">From Imgur</a>

  • Flashdance

    He's got the moves like Jagger.. He's got the moves like Jagger. <a href="http://www.postcity.com/Eat-Shop-Do/Do/November-2012/In-tribute-of-GIF-being-the-word-of-the-year-heres-our-favourite-Toronto-GIFs/" target="_blank">From PostCity</a>

  • Self-Fumble

    Invisible defenders take down the mayor with an invisible tackle.

  • Foiled By The Jedi

    <a href="http://i.imgur.com/JrKal.gif" target="_blank">From Imgur</a>

  • Falling Off The Scale

    Did we mention this <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/12/12/rob-ford-ballet-nutcracker-toronto_n_1143708.html" target="_blank">man once performed in a ballet</a>? From <a href="http://robfordfalls.tumblr.com/">Rob Ford Falls Tumblr</a>

  • Running Man

    That's one way to deal with reporters. <a href="http://fordfortoronto.mattelliott.ca/misc/ford-ani/all-ani.html">From Ford For Toronto by Matt Elliott</a>

  • Maniacal Laugh

    Muhahahahaha <a href="http://fordfortoronto.mattelliott.ca/misc/ford-ani/all-ani.html">From Ford For Toronto by Matt Elliott</a>

  • Maniacal Laugh II

    Muhahahahahahahahahahaha <a href="http://fordfortoronto.mattelliott.ca/misc/ford-ani/all-ani.html">From Ford For Toronto by Matt Elliott</a>

  • Robbie Boo Boo

    <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/22minutes/videos/clips---season-20/robbie-boo-boo.html" target="_blank">"22 Minutes" strikes again</a>. From <a href="http://thishourhas22minutes.tumblr.com/post/34114355293/22-minutes-discovers-mayor-rob-fords-new-honey">This Hour Has 22 Minutes</a>

  • Word Vomit

    Who needs words when you can just <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/04/02/rob-ford-vomit-noise-video_n_3001086.html" target="_blank">pretend to vomit</a>? <a href="http://imgur.com/gwV7q2h" target="_blank">From Imgur</a>

  • Time For His Close-Up

    Rob Ford proves you can run <em>from</em> the media, you can run <em>into</em> the media, and sometimes, you can do both at the same time. <a href="http://imgur.com/r/funny/nATPNJb" target="_blank">GIF from Imgur</a>

  • Bitchin' Sweater

    Bonus image. Want. <a href="http://imgur.com/xtxz2" target="_blank">Thank you Imgur</a>

  • NEXT: The Many Faces Of Ford

  • Toronto Rob Ford, right, gestures to Councillor Paul Ainslee in the council chamber as councillors look to pass motions to limit his powers in Toronto on Monday, Nov. 18, 2013. Blasting what he called a "coup d'etat," Ford said voters should be able to pass judgment on him, not his fellow councillors.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (centre) dances with participants ahead of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival in Toronto on Saturday July 30, 2011.

  • Toronto City Mayor Rob Ford, left, celebrates after defeating wrestler Hulk Hogan in an arm-wrestling match to promote Fan Expo in Toronto on Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 .

  • Twenty-two month-old Micah MacMilan reacts as he is picked up by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford while Ford was signing bobblehead dolls in his likeness at City Hall in Toronto on Tuesday November 12, 2013.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford holds up a replica Grey Cup as he attends the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats CFL Eastern Conference final football game in Toronto on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford laughs with fans as he attends the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats CFL Eastern Conference final football game in Toronto on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. Ford showed up at Sunday's Canadian Football League playoff game, despite a request by the league's commissioner that he stay away.

  • Canadian recording artist Drake, left, and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford laugh at a news conference announcing that Toronto will host the 2016 NBA All-Star game, in Toronto, Monday, Sept. 30, 2013.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford displays a milk moustache as he takes part in voting with city council members in Toronto on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford watches from the sidelines near the Argos bench during a CFL football game between the Toronto Argonauts and Calgary Stampeders in Calgary on Saturday, August 18, 2012.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford poses for photographs inside a giant shark mouth while attending the grand opening of the Ripley's Aquarium of Canada in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013. After two years of construction, delays and (Canadian) $130 million in costs, Ripley's Aquarium of Canada opened to the public Wednesday.

  • City of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford poses for a photo opportunity with other dignitaries in a shark's jaws at the opening of Ripley's Aquarium of Canada in Toronto on Wednesday, October 16, 2013.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is hoisted into the air by his Don Bosco Eagles team after winning the Metro Bowl quarter-final at Birchmount Park in Toronto, Thursday Nov. 15, 2012. A civil trial hearing in which the mayor is accused of libel against a restaurant owner went on without him.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (center) smiles as he officially opens the refurbished Sunnydale rink with Toronto Maple Leafs' coach Ron Wilson (right) and other dignitaries who were on hand as well as the Toronto Maple Leafs who practiced on the outdoor rink in Toronto on Wednesday, January 4, 2012.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford grabs the Grey Cup by the handles during a parade celebrating the Toronto Argonauts victory in the Grey Cup final in Toronto on Tuesday November 27, 2012 .

  • Rob Ford Meets Butter Rob Ford

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/31/rob-ford-butter-sculpture-ex-cne_n_1846616.html" target="_hplink">Toronto Mayor Rob Ford comes face to face with a butter sculpture of himself at the Canadian National Exhibition</a>.

  • Butter Rob Ford

    As part of an exhibition at the CNE, Toronto-based artist Olenka Kleban has made a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/24/butter-rob-ford-sculpture_n_1828527.html" target="_hplink">butter sculpture of Toronto's mayor</a>.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford hoists the Grey Cup on stage with Toronto Argonauts players while celebrating the team's Grey Cup victory in downtown Toronto on Tuesday, Nov.27, 2012.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford stands at the door to his office as he waits for an elevator in Toronto on Thursday November 14, 2013.

  • Mayor Rob Ford speaks at city council in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013.

  • Nov. 13 2013. Toronto mayor Rob Ford during the afternoon session as councillors continued to debate a motion asking mayor Rob Ford to apologize to Torontonians for misleading therm about his use of crack cocaine.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford speaks to his Don Bosco Eagles team during the Metro Bowl quarter-final at Birchmount Park in Toronto, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012.

  • In this Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013 file photo, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford holds a bobblehead doll depicting him at Toronto City Hall. An electoral map of the 2010 mayoral election shows that Ford's voter base resides mainly in a more conservative constituency than the downtown electorate.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (left) and city councillor Michelle Berardinetti (right) smile on stage during a performance of the Nutcracker in Toronto on Saturday, December 10, 2011. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Pawel Dwulit)

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford jumps on stage dressed as a Cannon Doll during a performance of the Nutcracker in Toronto on Saturday, December 10, 2011. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Pawel Dwulit)

  • Rob Ford's ballet debut

    Toronto Mayor Rob Ford acts on stage dressed as a Cannon Doll during a performance of the Nutcracker in Toronto on Saturday, December 10, 2011. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Pawel Dwulit)

  • City of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford addresses the media outside office in Toronto on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, after the release of a video. A new video surfaced showing Ford in a rage, using threatening words including "kill" and "murder."

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford emerges from his office holding slices of a birthday cake to offer to members of the media at city hall in Toronto on Tuesday May 28, 2013.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford arrives at City Hall in Toronto amid allegations of crack cocaine use on Friday May 17, 2013, in Toronto. Published reports say a video appears to show Ford smoking crack cocaine. Ford called the allegations ridiculous.

  • Toronto City Mayor Rob Ford watches players from Don Bosco Eagles, the High School team he coaches, warm up before they compete against the Huron Heights Warriors in the Metro Cup in Toronto on Tuesday November 27, 2012 Those whose antics threaten to besmirch the party name normally don't get a second chance with Canada's federal Conservatives. Not so, it would seem, for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford carries the Pan American games flag in Omnilife Stadium during the closing ceremonies of the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011. Toronto will host the games in 2015.

  • Toronto City Mayor Rob Ford reacts after Don Bosco Eagles, the High School team he coaches, lost 28-14 to Huron Heights Warriors in the Metro Cup in Toronto on Tuesday November 27, 2012.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford talks to a staff member at city hall in Toronto on Wednesday November 6, 2013.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford addresses reporters at City Hall in Toronto on Tuesday November 27, 2012.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford briefly takes the stage to greet the crowd as part of the New Years Eve celebrations at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto on Monday, December 31, 2012.