Law enforcement is only one part of a larger approach needed to solve the problem of violence in the city, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said Monday following a spate of homicides over the weekend.
"Just the enforcement part is just a factor… there's so many other factors that need to be involved to keep our city safe," Saunders said at the Spider's Web after-school drop-in centre in the Jane and Wilson area.
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Saunders' remarks come after four separate homicides in the city that took place in the span of just a few hours.
If we can get… these young men better opportunities to make decisions rather than use a gun as your decision maker, I think then that'll be a success - Source
Seventeen-year-old Sharmarke Farah, the youngest of four victims, was killed with a single gunshot to the chest just after 1 a.m. Sunday during a fight outside a Mississauga hookah lounge. In a similar incident in Brampton, a 23-year-old was fatally shot outside a lounge. Another 22-year-old man was stabbed and killed in Vaughan while a fourth man was killed at an East York community housing building.
On Monday, the police chief said programs like the one he visited are a big part of addressing youth violence.
"If we can get… these young men better opportunities to make decisions rather than use a gun as your decision maker, I think then that'll be a success," Saunders said.
'He was supposed to make it'
In the meantime, friends of Farah were left grappling with the 17-year-old's death.
"He was a special kid. He was supposed to make it somewhere — he was heading in the right direction," a Runnymede Collegiate classmate and childhood friend told CBC News. "Not to be forgotten, that's for sure."
"I was devastated like everybody else is," said another friend. "He didn't deserve this, no one does."
Police have yet to determine a motive in the case.
Saunders conceded Monday that police are finding that guns increasingly seem to be becoming the weapon of choice.
"We're noticing that more people are carrying firearms," the police chief said.
"It's a frightening thing to have happen but I think we have to look at what's the nature, what's the context," Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said of the violence Monday.
In the meantime, the chief believes programs like Spider's Web can teach young people life skills, good decision-making and how to de-escalate a situation could go a long way.
"There are many factors that are causing people to carry firearms," Saunders said. "We have to look at what we can do."