The new head of the Toronto police homicide squad says that while fighting a "code of silence" can be a challenge for investigators, members of the public are more likely than not to help police solve serious crimes.

Staff Insp. Greg McLane told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning that a lack of information can frustrate investigators, especially when it is known that witnesses were present when a crime took place.

However, he said that police tend to get the information they need from the people that have it.

"We do get a great deal of co-operation from the members of the public," McLane said Wednesday.

"They step forward, they tell us what they know about crimes more times than not."

McLane, recently appointed to lead the homicide unit, was asked about the recent sentencing of Lamar Skeete, a Toronto man who gunned down community activist Kenneth Mark.

In court, the Crown argued that Skeete had killed Mark because he broke a so-called code of silence.

"This particular case in my view, is an anomaly. It is something that very rarely happens," McLane said.

"However, we have to be cognizant of that and as a police service, we have to move forward and come up with ways to help people feel more comfortable in coming forward."

Mark case 'double edged sword'

Skeete received a life sentence on Tuesday, a punishment the victim’s mother said sent a "very clear message to anyone who thinks they are above the law in this country."

McLane agreed that the sentence sent a strong message, but acknowledged that what happened to Mark could be a deterrent to others from helping the police.

"It’s a double-edged sword, because now we’re in a situation where we have an excellent result — there’s a first-degree murder conviction, it’s a life sentence," McLane said.

"And on the other hand, it sends a very negative message to members of the community — are they going to meet with the same demise if they were to step forward and assist the police? And this is the balance that we have to overcome."