Police promise more officers on patrol in wake of Toronto shootings
Toronto police will be asked to work overtime to increase the number of officers on the ground in the wake of gun violence in the city, Police Chief Bill Blair announced Thursday.
Starting with the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival, officers will have their usual 10-hour shifts extended by two hours, to work 12-hour shifts, until the September long weekend concludes.
“Out intent is not to over-police our communities, our intent is to over protect them,” Blair told reporters at a press conference.
There will be an additional cost with the new shifts, but Blair said Toronto Police Services will find the money within its existing budget and he reiterated that he is not asking the city for more money.
He estimated the cost to be as much as $2 million.
The announcement comes in the wake of the worst public shooting in Toronto’s history on July 16, when at least one gunman opened fire at a crowded block party in the city’s east end, killing two and injuring 23 others.
That shooting was followed by two more shootings in the next three days.
The gun violence prompted a series of high-profile meetings, including one between Blair, Mayor Rob Ford and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, followed by a second meeting between the mayor and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Blair said the decision to put more officers on the streets is not a direct result of those meetings.
July and August are traditionally busy times for Toronto Police and the initiative is only meant to last until after Sept. 6, when young people go back to school, Blair said.
“We know that there are a lot of young people, there are a lot of events,” said Blair, of the decision not to extend the overtime plan past the beginning of September.
In total, asking officers to extend their shifts will allow for as many as 329 extra officers on any given day for patrols in neighbourhoods.
In addition, there will be an extra 456 officers available to work in the downtown core for the duration of Toronto’s annual Caribbean Carnival and 350 uniformed officers to work specifically during the Caribbean Carnival parade on Saturday, Aug. 4.
Asking police to work more hours will also allow officers to move between divisions, deploying to priority areas as intelligence warrants, or when a situation arises.
“Instead of one division working on a problem, we’ve erased the borders,” said Deputy Chief Peter Sloly.
Jamaican Canadian Association president Audrey Campbell, whose office is located near Jane Street and Finch Avenue, which has been the site of past gun violence, said that police working together with community programming for youth in high-priority neighbourhoods would ensure safer streets.
“It’s important that people understand that the additional policing that you will see in your communities is for your safety,” she said.