Toronto’s top cop says the city’s police service will deploy more front-line officers in the evening and overnight in a bid to tackle the city’s gun violence.
Around 200 officers will be out patrolling certain neighbourhoods between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. starting July 20 for eight weeks.
The increase in officers is part of the city’s Gun Violence Reduction Plan, which police Chief Mark Saunders and Mayor John Tory announced at police headquarters on Thursday.
“This plan will include adding more front-line resources during certain days between the hours of 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. when most of the gun violence takes place across the city,” Saunders said.
During and after the eight weeks, the plan will be evaluated to determine its effectiveness or if any changes need to be made. For now, Saunders has approved a change in shifts for police officers between those hours.
Saunders said the focus is not to saturate neighbourhoods, but to have police “focus on those very few who are motivated, have access, and to use guns across the city.”
“This is not about turning communities upside down … it’s about being a lot more strategic,” he emphasized.
Saunders said police have identified more than 1,000 players associated with Toronto’s gun violence. “It’s intelligence-led; we know who they players are,” he said.
There have been more than 200 shootings in the city so far this year with many of them resulting in people dying or being seriously wounded. To date, the city has recorded 54 homicides.
“We’ve been shocked and horrified by the gun violence that has been taking place in different parts of the city. It has taken young lives, it has traumatized families and has shaken neighbourhoods,” Tory said, adding that he supports Saunders’ plan to tackle gun violence.
But Tory said safety of the city is not only dependent on being tough on crime or police enforcement, but also on the causes of crime.
“We must be doing all that we can to prevent someone from joining a gang and picking up a gun. We must be doing all that we can to provide for opportunities and hope and support,” he said.
On that note, Tory announced a plan to seek city investments to expand programs for youth that already exist with the aim to reduce crime.
“I will be pushing ahead with a plan from the city’s end of this, working again hand-in-hand with the chief and other agencies to invest in the initiatives that we know are working for us now.”
Tory said the investments from the city and federal governments will total $15 million, which includes around $3 million for increased police deployment this summer.