aerial view of downtown toronto

A Look at Toronto’s Gun Crimes

Toronto faced an immense increase in violence last year. When compared to any other year, 2018 saw more crimes involving firearms compared to any other year in recent history. According to Toronto Police Service crime statistics for 2018, The total number of shootings was 428, making last year the highest recorded in the police data, which goes back to 2004. The city recorded a total of 96 homicides, 51 of which were shootings.

“This didn’t happen overnight, it was a trend upward over the past four years,” said Louis March, the founder of the Zero Gun Violence Movement.

Bar chart showing shootings in Toronto between 2004-2018

March’s movement consists of over 40 different community organizations and programs across Toronto who collaborate to reach three main objectives: education and awareness, advocacy, and engagement.

“We need to look past the root causes and think about the seed causes. Why are they being planted?”

Their goal is to achieve zero gun-violence in the city of Toronto. According to March, corrections is not an effective way of dealing with the issue.

“If it was a policing solution, we would not be in this mess,” he said. Economic and social issues, as well as youth access to guns are some of the aspects he attributed to the high levels of gun violence in the city.

Tina-Nadia Gopal Chambers, is a full-time youth worker and founder of Amadeusz, a not-for-profit organization that fosters opportunities for young people affected by incarceration, violence and crime. Gopal Chambers says that systematic barriers in Toronto such as racism, poverty and inequality create an environment where young people feel the need to carry a gun for safety.

Amadeusz conducted a research report in association with The City of Toronto’s Toronto Youth Equity Strategy (TYES), Humber College, and Laidlaw Foundation called Look at My Life: “Sparks” for Firearm Possession among Young People in Toronto, which is comprised of data collected by interviewing 10 people, ages 15-30, who each have multiple convictions and incarcerations for possessing a firearm.

The research showed that youth are obtaining firearms because of certain “sparks,” which included “lack of economic opportunity, issues in the traditional education system [and] family issues,” said Gopal Chambers.

The battle against Toronto’s gun violence focuses on enforcing the law, and putting those responsible for gun violence behind bars, though Gopal Chambers doesn’t believe that this tackles the underlying issues.

“Are we going to only invest in corrections and policing, or are we going to look at other innovative solutions?” she said.

March says the Ford government’s $25-million cutbacks for after-school programming in the city’s most disadvantaged communities – which will be put towards policing – is a major step in the wrong direction. The solutions are around dealing with at-risk communities to make it equally as safe in every neighbourhood in the city.

“Why is there a difference between living in Rosedale than living in Rexdale?” March said.

Toronto Police Service crime statistics show that in 2018 the 55th division, which oversees most of the Rosedale area, saw six shootings, while the 31st division, which covers much of Rexdale, had 67 shootings.

“If we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem,” said March.

Curious about how your neighbourhood is affected by gun violence? Check out the map below to find what police division you live in, and click this link to explore the Toronto Police’s data on gun violence by division.

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