Toronto police to deploy 200 more officers to patrol overnight
An anti-gun violence initiative that will see 200 additional front-line officers patrolling at-risk Toronto neighbourhoods begins Friday evening.
The initiative was announced last week by Police Chief Mark Saunders, who said the officers will be deployed between the hours of 7 p.m. and 3 a.m., “when most gun violence takes place.”
“Our focus during this timeframe will be intelligence-led with the intention of not saturating the neighbourhoods, but to have our police officers focus on those very few who are motivated, have access to and who use guns across the city,” Saunders said on July 12.
The Toronto Police Service will be relying on overtime to ensure these hours are staffed, a decision that will cost the force about $3 million.
“For the first time, I’m getting a multi-minister approach to this,” Saunders told CP24 on Friday. “It’s not about enforcement.”
“My concern (is) those people that are motivated to shoot a gun in the city of Toronto. I want those people apprehended.”
Chris Lewis, CTV News’s public safety analyst, has been critical of the Toronto Police Service’s decision to expand the number of officers patrolling the city.
“It’s not going to solve the problem by putting more police officers on the street,” he said. “It’s so much bigger than that. These kids are lured into this lifestyle.”
Lewis explained that establishing trusting relationships in at-risk neighbourhoods is critical to reducing gun violence, but it’s not something that can change overnight.
Over the last week, both the Toronto police board and the mayor have come forward with measures to help curb gun violence in the city on a long-term basis, suggesting investment in community-focused initiatives and the use of gunshot detection technology.
The measures recommended by Toronto Mayor John Tory are meant to help contribute to a “balanced approach” to reducing gun violence. The initiatives include new employment opportunities in marginalized communities, the establishment of a “children’s mental health recovery team” and the expansion of programs like Toronto Community Housing’s Youth Worx.
“A lot of this is going to be a person-by-person, neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood, family-by-family approach. Some of the numbers don’t sound large but every single person or family we can help will make a substantial contribution,” Tory said on Wednesday.
“I think it’s going to help more kids to succeed now, by giving them the tools they need.”
The Toronto police board will be formally asking city council to fund these measures, which is estimated to cost about $4 million.
The last city council meeting of 2018 will take place next week.
According to data provided by Toronto Police, there have been 55 homicides in the city this year (including the 10 people killed in the North York van attack). Twenty-seven of those deaths were gun-related.
At this time last year, there were 24 homicides.
The expanded police presence in Toronto is expected to remain in effect for the next eight weeks.