There’s a perfect storm of gun violence going on in Toronto right now that our politicians don’t want to talk about.
As of Sunday, shootings are up 12% this year compared to this time last year, and last year there were more shootings than at any time since police began compiling comparable data in 2004.
Police lost two of their main tools for fighting the root cause of most of these shootings, gang violence, starting in 2014.
That’s when street checks (aka carding) were scrapped, followed by the shutting down of the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS), because municipal and provincial politicians caved to allegations both were systemically racist and scrapped them.
Since 2014, shootings in Toronto have increased by 178% compared to 2019 (492 vs 177) while the number of deaths and woundings from gunfire is up by 176% (284 vs 103).
Street checks were never supposed to be abandoned. They were supposed to be governed by a new provincial regulation balancing the need of police for intelligence gathering with the civil rights of people being questioned by police.
They also need to publicly and forcefully counter false and increasingly hysterical allegations made against police.
For example, when they are falsely accused of throwing a woman off a balcony.
When they are swarmed for doing their job, as occurred last month during what started out as a peaceful protest in the Eglinton-Oakwood Aves. area against the economic devastation to the community caused by COVID-19 and LRT construction.
Defending the police doesn’t mean excusing police wrongdoing.
It means not giving people who hate the police no matter what they do a free ride when they make outrageous, unsubstantiated allegations.
Because when these allegations aren’t publicly and forcefully refuted by politicians, it encourages more law-breaking — whether its gun violence, illegal street racing or vandalism disguised as political protest.
But the regulation drafted by the previous Liberal provincial government was unworkable, written for lawyers rather than the real world, and now we’re reaping the whirlwind of record levels of gun crime.
Provincial and city politicians are terrified of doing what they were supposed to do six years ago — come up with a workable regulation governing street checks — frightened if they even mention the subject, they’ll be condemned by anti-police activists as racists.
So instead, in a time of record gun violence on the streetsof Toronto, the most recent debate on policing at city hall,in June, was on whether to cut the police budget by 10%, or $122 million, as part of the so-called “defund the police” movement.
That would have meant laying off hundreds of the 5,025 police officers on the force in June, 5% fewer than in 2015.
This at a time when the Toronto Police Service, at 167 officers per 100,000 population, has far fewer per capita than Vancouver (198),Montreal (223), or the average American city with a population of more than 500,000 (234).
Mayor John Tory and the majority on council defeated that motion by Councillor Josh Matlow — who four years earlier had voted against cutting the police budget by $12 million — passing an alternate set of motions aimed at addressing systemic racism in policing.
But in a time of record gun violence, it’s not enough to defeat reckless motions that would have caused chaos in policing.
It’s not enough when politicians are silent about skyrocketing gun violence in Toronto because of decisions they made.