Chief Bill Blair and Staff Sgt. Mary Lee Metcalfe, Monday Oct. 22. Photo by Ben Spurr.
A 15-year-old boy has been arrested in connection with a string of sexual assaults that has gripped the Bloor and Christie neighbourhood.
The suspect, who under the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act cannot be named, is charged with 14 counts of sexual assault and two counts of criminal harassment.
Police announced the arrest Monday morning at a press conference at Toronto Police Services headquarters. According to sex crimes unit commander Staff Sgt. Mary Lee Metcalfe, police apprehended the suspect on the scene of an attack around 11 pm Saturday night.
"A woman was walking in the Roxton Rd., Bloor St. West area in 14 Division," Metcalfe said. "The accused approached the woman from behind, sexually assaulted her, and was arrested by the police at the scene."
Although Chief Bill Blair acknowledged that police had deployed plain clothes female officers in the neighbourhood and repeatedly praised their conduct as leading to the arrest, he refused to confirm that the woman who was targeted on Saturday night was a member of the force.
"We had women in our organization who put themselves in harm's way, who went out into that community and put themselves at risk, knowing that if they were successful in their mission, they could be also a victim of an assault," Blair said.
"As a result of the courage shown by those individuals, this investigation has been successfully concluded."
Since August 16, 16 women have reported being attacked as they walked at night through the Bloor and Christie area. Police have declined to release details of the nature of assaults, saying only that the suspect attacked the women from behind and then fled the scene.
Despite fears that the assailant may have inspired copycat attacks, Blair said that based on evidence provided by witnesses and victims, police are confident that the suspect they have in custody is responsible for all 16 incidents.
The series of attacks provoked a strong response from the local community, with hundreds of people taking part in "take back the block" marches and postering the area with signs warning the attacker "WE ARE WATCHING YOU."
On Monday, Blair acknowledged the role that local residents played in bringing the investigation to a close.
"This investigation could not have been successfully concluded without the community's support and assistance," he said.
"I hope that the women in this city who have experienced a tremendous amount of fear, can be reassured by the arrest of the individual that we've announced this morning, but also as a result of the unwavering, unrelenting commitment of the men and women of the Toronto police force."
Although the arrest was made Saturday night, Blair said police did not immediately make it public in order to first notify all 16 victims, a process which took until Monday morning to complete.
Both Blair and Metcalfe refused to answer any questions that may have identified the suspect, including whether police believe he is mentally impaired or whether he lives in the Christie and Bloor area.
According to Metcalfe, police executed a search warrant at an undisclosed location late Sunday night.
The suspect was due in court at 311 Jarvis St. at 10 am Monday morning.