Scarborough neighbourhood where two young girls were shot needs more than playground ‘refresh,’ advocate says

The unveiling of a repainted Scarborough playground Thursday brought with it mixed feelings for community members.

The “refresh” of the playground at 10 Alton Towers Circle — the site of a daylight shooting in 2018 that injured two young girls — was commissioned by Toronto Crime Stoppers as part of its Community Reward Program.

But the mother of the two girls, Stacey King, was disappointed that she only found out about the project Wednesday, a day before the unveiling, through a letter in her mailbox from the board of her housing complex.

While a Toronto police press release about the playground mentions the shooting incident, King says she had not been contacted ahead of the event.

“There was no recognition or acknowledgment of either me or my daughters,” said King, who attended the unveiling Thursday.

Crime Stoppers chair Sean Sportun said the organization worked closely with Milliken Co-Operatives Homes Inc. and relied on it to communicate to the Alton Towers residents about the playground unveiling.

“When I spoke to (King) this morning, I found out that she hadn’t been notified through the proper channels, which was kind of a little shocking to me,” Sportun said. “The initiative was about a community overcoming what occurred.”

The Star reached out for comment from Milliken Co-Operatives Homes but did not hear back before publishing.

Social worker and community leader Michelle Colthrust, who lives in the area, sees the playground as a new beginning for the community where “not just the parents, but the children were scared themselves” to go play.

However, Louis March, founder of Zero Gun Violence Movement, told the Star there is a need for “social, economic and human investment in the neighbourhood” and for “fundamental issues of poverty and crime” to be addressed.

“Repainting or renovating a playground … doesn’t address the fundamental issues underlying criminal activity such as gun violence,” he said. “We’re looking for substantial investments where children can feel safe going to the playground.”

Referencing that at the event children and youth in the community were to receive a custom ‘Alton Towers Superhero’ branded sweatshirt, March asked, “The children will show up today, they will get their sweatshirt, but will they show up tomorrow?”