Toronto has a “problem with gunplay,” the city’s police chief says, but the vast majority of people are safe.
Mark Saunders’s comments come as Toronto marked its 90th homicide this year — surpassing a grisly record that stood unbroken for nearly three decades.
On Sunday, a brazen daytime shooting in Scarborough brought to the total number of slayings in Toronto this year to 90. The previous record for the most homicides in a single year was 89 set in 1991.
In an interview with CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, Saunders argued that gang violence is at the centre of a spike in gun-related killings.
“Most of the shootings, by in large, are attributed to the street gang violence: people who have a high-risk lifestyle,” he said, adding the brazenness of homicides sets this year apart from cases in 1991.
“Street-gang subculture is something that needs to be looked at.”
Shooting deaths account for half of homicides
Last week, Acting Insp. Hank Idsinga of the force’s homicide unit said there has been an “uptick in the number of shootings” relative to other types of slayings this year.
While officers have seized more guns off the streets than ever before — close to 900 firearms — the “shootings keep happening,” Idsinga explained.
Police statistics show a rise in shooting deaths in 2018, accounting for more than half of all slayings so far this year.
Last year, that number was 36, compared to 34 in the year before.
Saunders admitted it has been an “unusual” year for Toronto, attributing two mass casualty events that grabbed worldwide attention to incomprehensible violence.
Ten people were killed and 16 others injured when a van plowed into pedestrians along Yonge Street on April 23. Three months later, a mass shooting rampage along a bustling Danforth Avenue left two dead and wounded 13 others.
Meanwhile, other shootings in Toronto’s public places — the entertainment district, popular downtown areas, and perhaps most shockingly, a Scarborough playground where two young sisters were wounded — raised particular community ire and made gun violence and its root causes a hot-button political issue.
Mayor John Tory has endorsed a complete ban on handguns within city limits, while both the province and Ottawa have contributed new funding for youth programming aimed at providing opportunities to vulnerable young people.
Tory has said while there’s “no magic answer” to this year’s homicide total and pointed out that “people do have the right to expect their governments will work together to reduce violent crime.”