Toronto Police made 240 arrests and laid 525 charges in the first six weeks of Project Community Space which is an 11-week police-led safety initiative that started on August 15.
The project includes officers from across the city under the centralized command of the Integrated Gun & Gang Task Force. It is intelligence-led and includes, but is not limited to monitoring of bail compliance, enhanced engagement with community programs and an increased presence and visibility of officers in areas frequently associated with street gangs and gun violence.
Updating the media at police headquarters on September 30 as promised at the half-way mark of the project, Chief Mark Saunders said there was a 30 per cent decrease in shootings compared to the six weeks prior to the start of the project. A dozen individuals who were free on bail for firearm-related offences were re-arrested, some with firearms.
He said firearm-related offences accounted for 35 per cent of the charges while 17 per cent of the charges were for failure to comply or breach of conditions.
A total of 11 per cent of the charges were for violent offences, including assault, robbery and sexual offences and eight per cent of the arrests were for outstanding warrants.
It also allows for an increased presence and visibility in patrol cars and on foot in the areas where street gangs are prevalent and we have seen some effectiveness as a deterrent
Saunders said the time spent by officer’s onsite processing complaints was 15 per cent shorter, allowing them to quickly move on to the next call.
“These results speak to the project being intelligence-led in that officers are in key areas and able to get to scenes quickly,” he said.
Based on feedback from communities, the Chief said residents feel safer because of the increased police presence.
“Being community-focussed is a key element of the Service’s modernization and this enhancement is allowing our officers to be where communities need us most,” he added. “It also allows for an increased presence and visibility in patrol cars and on foot in the areas where street gangs are prevalent and we have seen some effectiveness as a deterrent.”
Officers also conducted a bail enforcement surge, checking 876 individuals who are currently on bail.
In addition, police have also made 38 referrals to community agencies of which 17 were to the Gang Exit Program, and the Integrated Guns & Gangs Task Force has held six of 31 planned gang prevention town hall meetings aimed at educating and supporting families who live in areas affected by street gang activity and whose children may be recruited by neighbourhood gangs.
The City of Toronto secured $4.5 million in funding commitments from the three levels of government for the initiative that focusses on street gangs, violent crime reduction and firearm-related offences.