Toronto searches for answers to rising gun violence

Published On July 4, 2018 | By damianali93 | Crime, Life, News

The mother of rapper Jahvante Smart, 21, also known as Smoke Dawg, is consoled by friends and family during a vigil following his July 2 shooting death in downtown Toronto. (REUTERS/Chris Helgren)

Damian Ali, Ryan Brockerville and Michael Furtado

Many Torontonians are left questioning their safety as the city saw yet another weekend filled with gun violence.

Four people were injured during a shooting at Kensington Market just a day after two men were murdered on Peter Street in Toronto’s entertainment district, all during the Canada Day long weekend. And the violence spilled into the week as a man was wounded early Tuesday near King and Portland Streets.

It’s shaping up to be the Summer of the Gun, Revisited. But rather than it being the tragic anomaly of 2005, Toronto Police Association President Michael McCormack believes this is now the norm for Toronto.

“It’s not a blip. It’s not an anomaly,” he told Humber News. “This is a new trend” that became noticeable four years ago.

There were 33 shootings in Toronto between June and August 2005, the Summer of the Gun. Since this June, there have been 39 shooting incidents so far.

McCormack said resolving the issue of gun violence in Toronto is much more complex than people may think.

“One thing that is intrinsic in solving and dealing with it, is having a properly staffed police service,” he said. “We are doing what we can with the limited resources we have, but when we have a service that is 800 less police officers than we had eight years ago, we don’t have the resources.”

Toronto Police isn’t the only organization fighting to prevent gun violence in the city.

A community movement called the Zero Gun Violence Movement has been trying to address it for the past five years.

The group’s founder Louis March says traditional media tends to avoid the full story when speaking on gun violence. He is also critical of the provincial and municipal governments when it comes to how they spend their money. The focus doesn’t appear to be on at-risk youths and their communities, he said.

“You are spending a lot of money in communities on programs that are not effective,” March said. “Gun violence is the consequence, it’s the byproduct, the result of failed policies and programs.”

March is also critical of the work done by Mayor John Tory since his election four years ago.

“The political leaders have ignored this issue for whatever reason, it has not been a priority,” he said.

In response to citizen concerns, Tory has called for increased resolve in order to end the plague of gun violence that has taken Toronto by storm.

He expressed anger in a July 2 statement about the spike in gun violence that impacted the city, but also called for determination in working with the police to end it.

“As mayor, the safety of our city is my top priority and one that I share with my Chief Mark Saunders and the men and women of the Toronto Police Service,” Tory said.

“That’s why we’re hiring 200 police officers this year, why I’ve always advocated for tougher gun control and tougher bail conditions for gun crime, and why we’re modernizing the police service to ensure there are more officers patrolling the streets,” he said.

Tory said on a July 3 CFRB 1010 morning show that although hiring more officers is a solution, it is not the only one.

“The fact is there were more police officers in 2005 when we had the Year of the Gun,” Tory said. “It is not the answer. It is one of the answers.”

However, toughening up bail guidelines for those committing gun crimes should remain a top priority, he said.

“As a possible solution, it is something that must be quickly acted upon and stopped as soon as possible,” Tory said.

“Countless police officers – from constables to the Chief himself – have told me how frustrated they are by the fact someone they arrest for a gun crime can be back on the street on bail quickly and ready to cause more mayhem,” Tory said.

The issue of gun violence is far too complex to fix overnight, as there are many reasons as to why someone would wield a weapon.

Claudio Colaguori, a York University criminology professor, said there are multiple factors involved in producing any sort of outcome in society, is “cultural.”

“There is the cultural issue that is often ignored. People won’t like what I have to say, but hip-hop culture promotes cultures of masculinity, hyper-masculine identities, the myth that the gun is a symbol of power and respect,” he said.

Colaguori says deviant subcultures need to be critically examined so as to devise strategies to make criminal lifestyles unpopular and unfashionable to youth.

“The power of popular culture, it’s myths of violence and it’s killer heroes can cultivate the normalization of wrong doing as adventurous,” he said. “Many young people don’t have the critical acumen to be able to distinguish between what’s fashionable and what’s wrong, especially when leaders use violence as a form of power.”

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