I don’t know about you, but the one thing that is always lingering in the back of my mind about Toronto and our neighbourhoods is my fear that we are not safe. When you get up on New Year’s Day and the first thing you hear on the news is that a shooting occurred. Your physic is one of questioning where you go and at what time of the day and where. It never was this way, but reality has set in and Toronto the good may not just be the city we once knew.
Toronto recorded 96 homicides in 2018, a figure that broke the record of 89 homicides in 1991.
The police have had to investigate a record-breaking number of killings in Canada’s most populous city, grapple with a rise in deadly gang violence, address criticism about a perceived lack of action in some cases and deal with several high-profile slayings that have strained resources. Toronto police have indicated that they will be bringing in more members and launching a video analysis unit in an effort to solve more cases faster – changes that are needed if the city’s homicide figures stay around their current levels.
Statistics indicate 51 of the year’s homicides were by shooting, 20 by stabbing, 10 were part of an April van attack and 15 were by other means. This increase in violence is attributed to an increase in gun violence. The one statistic that is alarming to me is that there were 406 shooting incidents in 2018. You heard that correct, close to 500 incidents that a gun was involved in some sort of a dispute in our city.
The Greektown incident this past summer had Mayor John Tory and city council call on Ottawa to ban handguns, amid worries that gun crime is spiking. In my humble opinion, l believe that one way to solve or put a dent into gun violence in Toronto lies in fixing neighbourhoods where people feel no hope. This is where it has to begin and end. Advocacy and engaging with people who no one else is talking to are areas that we need to put resources and funds into mentoring and new programs.
Solutions are in community programming, empowering neighbourhoods and investing in early school interventions for troubled kids. There has been a lack of leadership and courage to confront these issues in a meaningful way. John Tory is all about rhetoric and no real substance on gun violence in our city. I would like to see some real leadership from John Tory and put some real time and money into these neighbourhoods. Money is not being spent smartly because crime is still climbing. The programs in place are not the solution if the right people aren’t taking part. Communities aren’t underserviced, they are poorly serviced.
Going full circle to the very simple question is Toronto safe?
A strong majority of people in Toronto still feel it is a safe city, especially when compared to other cities of a similar size around the world. But when you look at the crime statistics, residents like me have a discomfort and feel we have a problem that is getting worse.
Going about your business these days and not having to looking over your shoulder or walking around the city freely may be a thing of the past.
Minister Blair has recently said in his new role that he will tackle looking at gun and gang violence in Toronto. He has said that he would be examining the possibility of a handgun ban and changes in how certain types of assault rifles are regulated, all while respecting the lawful rights of responsible Canadian firearm owners.
The Ford government has committed $25 million in new funding in an effort to combat gun violence in Toronto. Most of the provincial funds will be used to make it tougher to get bail on gun charges and keep many of these perpetrators in jail until something can be worked out before putting someone back on the streets that will recommit the same gun violence.
It seems that all three government levels are giving us lip service on gun violence and what to do with the alarming increase in gun violence. Yes, each level of government is throwing in crumbs into programs and showing us that they are trying to do something when in fact no one has taken a very strong position and shown some true leadership. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. This serious issue is becoming a political football and the real problem of illegal guns and how we deal with this issue is falling between the cracks.
Someone needs to step up and Mayor John Tory should be that person to take on the challenge and be our leader on this serious issue.
Mayor Tory show us that you have some lemons on this issue and not make lemonade out of this serious gun problem in our City. You owe it to yourself, your family, and all Torontonians.
Please step up.