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Top cop irks LGBQT

A suggestion by Toronto's police chief that an alleged serial killer would have been arrested sooner if the public had been more co-operative with investigators has angered LGBTQ residents and could worsen already strained relationships with them, community leaders said Tuesday.

Chief Mark Saunders told the Globe and Mail that "nobody" came to officers with information in 2012 when police launched Project Houston, an ultimately unsuccessful investigation into multiple men who went missing from the city's gay village.

Police arrested self-employed landscaper Bruce McArthur in January, and have since charged him with six counts of first-degree murder. Most of his alleged victims were men who had gone missing from the gay village, and two were among those whose disappearances were investigated by Project Houston.

Saunders issued a statement Tuesday evening saying he had spoken with Globe reporters about the challenges faced by police and the force's desire to work with the community.

"As a police service, we put resources into Project Houston — a dozen full-time investigators did thousands of hours of work canvassing the community, posting flyers, issuing news releases, interviewing witnesses, and still those activities did not yield any results," he said in the statement.

Community leaders said Saunders' comments to the newspaper will likely aggravate the already tense relationship between police and the groups affected by McArthur's alleged crimes, including the LGBTQ community, racial minorities, the homeless and sex workers.

"This is actually just going to push that divide a bit further and not allow people to work together," said Haran Vijayanathan, executive director of the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention advocacy group. "The chief is creating his own problems now."

There are legitimate reasons for members of the LGBTQ community to distrust police, said Maura Lawless, executive director of The 519, a community centre in the gay village.

"(Saunders') comments affirm that systemic institutional discrimination, homophobia, transphobia and racism are real and continue to pose a significant risk to the safety and well being of our community," she said.

"I hope that chief Saunders reflects on the community's outrage related to his comments and retracts them immediately."



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