In response to an increase in deadly gun violence, the Service has unveiled a gun violence reduction strategy that includes the deployment of about 200 frontline officers.
At a news conference at police headquarters on July 12, Chief Mark Saunders said police have been working with all levels of government to figure out the best co-ordinated and sustainable solution to curb gun violence in Toronto.
To be launched on July 20, the new $3 million plan – that will be in place for approximately eight weeks – allows for the frontline resources to be deployed between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. on certain days in areas where most of the gun violence occurs.
“Our focus during this time will be intelligence-led, with the intention of not saturating neighbourhoods, but to have our police officers focused on the very few who are motivated to access and use guns in the city,” said Saunders. “We are expanding shifts at certain peak times. It’s not about numbers. It’s about deployment to get successful outcomes.”
Saunders said there will be continuous and ongoing evaluations to determine if any operations or reconfigurations of the plan need to take place.
“Together, working with community agencies, I am confident we will have successful outcomes,” Saunders said.
The Chief said he got a snapshot of who the primary players involved in gun incidents are during a recent meeting with his unit commanders.
“Our men and women are getting the necessary intelligence and we have put a playbook together,” he said. “This overlay will provide the opportunity of roughly 200 extra officers at various times of the day.”
Mayor John Tory, also a member of the Toronto Police Services Board, attended the news conference.
He said the Board fully endorses the plan.
“We have been shocked and horrified by the gun violence that has claimed young lives and traumatized families,” he said. “We want all residents to be safe and feel safe. This new initiative will ensure we continue to have officers this summer who will be there, where they are needed most, during the times that they are needed most across the city. The work of the police is appreciated and will ensure the actual safety and, just as important, the sense of safety on the part of all people living in communities across the city.
“But we know that the safety of our city rests not just in being tough on crime or on enforcement in the communities. It also depends on communities being relentless in addressing the cause of crime. I believe we must be doing all we can to prevent someone from joining a gang and picking up a gun. We must be doing all that we can to provide opportunity and hope and support.”
Tory promised to continue to advocate for stricter gun control laws, tighter bail conditions and the ability to prevent drug and gun offenders from returning to Toronto Community Housing.
“When I hear stories from our men and women serving on the frontline, as I did yesterday when I was biking with 14 Division officers, of guns being concealed in strollers, people out on bail thumbing their noses at the very officers who arrested them again only a matter of days apart, I think it is time for a real re-think of those laws,” he said.