Toronto grapples with growing gun violence

Toronto grapples with growing gun violence
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Sunday's shooting rampage in Toronto that left two people dead has brought more scrutiny on a growing issue in Canada's most populous city: gun violence.

Sunday’s shooting rampage in Toronto that left two people dead has brought more scrutiny on a growing issue in Canada’s most populous city: gun violence.

Toronto has seen a recent spike in gun violence and homicides this year. In 2017, Toronto Police Service reported 205 shootings. As of Monday — with five months left to go in the year — the 2018 totals have already exceeded last year’s totals that with 228 shootings.

Homicides in the city have also increased this year, so far to 58 — having exceeded last year’s total of 24. Most of the homicides this year — 29 out of 58 — were from shootings, according to police.

The Sunday shooting in Toronto’s Greektown neighborhood killed two people — a 10-year-old girl and an 18-year-old woman — among the 15 people who were shot. The assailant is also dead and investigators are trying to understand what prompted the violence.

Just two days before the shooting, Toronto had deployed more resources, putting 200 more officers on the streets of at-risk neighborhoods between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. in an effort to reduce gun violence. In the announcement of the plan earlier this month, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders didn’t point to one factor to increasing gun violence, but said they need to work to get kids to not join gangs and to keep guns out of the hands of gangs.

Officials had touted the $3-million plan as a way to have officers in places where they are needed most across the city. It was not immediately clear whether Greektown was included in that program.

The city’s mayor was asked about the issue after Sunday’s shooting.

“We were so used to living in a city where these things didn’t happen and we saw them going on in the world around us, that we thought they don’t happen here, or couldn’t or shouldn’t,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory.

“We have a gun problem in that guns are readily available to too many people. The police are doing their best, but they’re operating under extraordinarily difficult circumstances to deal with these guns. And we’ll see what they conclude from this case, but it’s evidence of a gun problem, clearly,” he said.

The increase in gun violence crimes is not unique to Toronto though. Canada’s national statistics for 2017 show an increase in violent crime involving firearms since 2013.

But in comparison, Toronto’s homicide figures are still dwarfed by statistics in major US cities such as Chicago, where 285 people were killed this year, according to the Chicago Tribune; and Baltimore, which has 159 homicides, according to the Baltimore Sun. Most of those homicides are shootings, according to the respective databases.

Bill Blair, Canada’s minister of border security and organized crime reduction, tweeted on Monday that he had spoken with both Tory and Saunders to “discuss how we can support their efforts to end the violence. We stand united in our resolve to keep our streets safe.”