Toronto officers have made several arrests connected to three shootings following a week of gun violence, police Chief Mark Saunders said Friday.
During a news conference Friday morning, Saunders said investigators made progress in three separate incidents, leading to the arrests of five people and the recovery of three firearms.
“We are optimistic about some of the ongoing investigations. We’ll definitely be making more arrests.”
Saunders said the spate of shootings “by and large have street gang connotations to them,” and that police are working to “shift” their gun violence strategy. He said the new approach will place a stronger focus on street gangs, but did not provide details about the new plan or when it will begin.
Just hours later, gunfire erupted in the city’s east end, leaving one dead.
Saunders acknowledged innocent bystanders and people in communities with street gangs have been disproportionately affected by the recent violence.
He recalled a recent community meeting where concerned parents said they’ve been putting their children to sleep on mattresses in bathtubs out of fear of errant gunfire.
“A bullet is unbiased. [It] will go anywhere,” Saunders said.
Over the past week, police have responded to numerous shootings, including a violent Simcoe Day long weekend that left 17 people with gunshot injuries from 14 separate shootings. There have also been three shootings in one neighbourhood in suburban Scarborough since Tuesday.
Toronto on track for new shootings record
According to police statistics, Toronto is on pace to set a new annual record for total shooting incidents and victims.
The 2019 total would surpass all other years of publicly available data, which stretches to 2004.
In addition to introducing an altered police strategy, Saunders called on the courts to stop granting bail to repeat gun offenders, who are often responsible for further shootings, he said.
Mayor John Tory, in a statement released after Saunders’s remarks, echoed that request.
“Repeat gun offenders simply shouldn’t be out on bail,” he said. “While each case is different, sentences simply must fit the extreme gravity of these gun crimes. And right now, they often don’t.”
Tory has also renewed his calls for a citywide handgun ban in the wake of this week’s violence.
During a news conference in Kitchener on Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his government will make an announcement on gun violence in the near future.
He also reiterated his opposition to a handgun ban, and said the optimal strategy is instead “making sure that we come down hard and heavy on these gangs.”