05/29/2014 08:25 EDT | Updated 07/29/2014 05:59 EDT

Police raids help curtail gangs, crime journalist says

A Toronto crime writer says police raids and mass arrests like the ones that took place early Wednesday are necessary to help keep gangs in check.

"You have to go after gangs, you can't let them get too big," writer James Dubro said Thursday during an interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. "Are we safer? Yes, because there will perhaps be less gunfire. If you don't go after them, they're liable to get cocky and more and more powerful as we saw with the Hells Angels in Montreal about 15 years ago."

Dubro, whose books Mob Rule and Dragons of Crime document how gangs operate in Toronto, was speaking one day after police arrested 50 people in a series of predawn raids targeting two gangs: The Sic Thugz and the Asian Assassins.

In announcing the arrests yesterday, Toronto police acting chief Mark Saunders said the gangs are fierce rivals that operate across a "wide footprint" of the GTA and beyond. The police have scheduled an 11 a.m. news conference Thursday where they are expected to provide details about charges. Police also plan to display some of the guns and drugs seized in Wednesday's raids.

Both gangs have waged gun battles in public places

Dubro said although there are larger criminal groups operating in the city, the gangs at the centre of Wednesday's arrests represent a danger to the public due to their willingness to wage gun battles in public spaces.

The Sic Thugz were involved in a July 2012 shooting at the crowded Eaton Centre food court, which left two men dead and injured six people, including a 13-year-old boy.

Police have also said the Asian Assassins are connected to a shooting outside Yorkdale Shopping Centre in April of last year, which left a 23-year-old man dead.

"[These gangs] are dangerous to the public because of the public shootings," Dubro said. "They have guns and they'll use them. They don't give a hoot about the public."

Wednesday's raids were carried out by heavily armed tactical officers and took place at neighbourhoods across the city. One raid happened at a condo building in Liberty Village, a once-industrial west-end neighbourhood that is now a trendy enclave popular with young professionals.

The raid shocked many of the building's residents, but Dubro said he was not surprised.

"Some of these gang-bangers are making money and some people put their money in apartments," he said. "It's wise to live in a building with good security, it's not unusual."