Rising gun violence in Toronto: Is the weather to blame?

The recent spate of shootings in this city has a lot of people asking why it's happening and how concerned we should be about our safety.

A criminologist talks about the recent spate of shootings in Toronto

(Andrew Collins)

The recent spate of shootings in this city has a lot of people asking why it's happening and how concerned we should be about our safety.

After two people were killed and three more injured in Chinatown early Sunday morning, those questions are being asked more and more. The shooting happened on Spadina near Nassau Street, when a gunman opened fire on a group of men outside a restaurant.

It's the ninth homicide in the city this year. Eight of those killings involved firearms. That brings the number of shootings up by about 100 per cent over this month last year.

The head of the police association, Mike McCormack, suggested that the fact that police have stopped doing street checks is leading to more violence. But could the milder weather have something to do with the rising number of shootings?

Scot Wortley, a criminologist at the University of Toronto, was on Metro Morning to discuss what he thinks is behind the spate of violence.

What is behind the recent spate of shootings in this city? Matt Galloway spoke with Scot Wortley, he is a Criminologist at the University of Toronto. 7:08

What is behind the rise in gun violence?

This time it's very premature to make any strong statements about what's causing this. There's a number of different factors that could come into play, including the possibility of beefs between gang members or it could be just random coincidence.

I heard someone say the other day it might be do to the nicer weather we've been getting this winter.

What would the weather have to do with this?

There's a number of studies that show that violence increases when people are out and about and that happens more when the weather is better. So compared to last year we're having a relatively mild winter with little snow. That means the nightclubs and restaurants are fuller than they have been in the past.

I'm just pointing it out as another possible variable that could be thrown into the equation.

We have to look at the overall numbers at the end of the year before we draw conclusions about a dramatic increase about gun violence.

Does this have to do, as Mike McCormack suggested, with the ban on carding?

First of all, I'm not surprised by such statements. There's a lot of political manoeuvring right now about the carding issue. We witnessed similar rhetoric from the New York City police service when their stop-and-frisk policies were greatly curtailed when their mayor [Bill de Blasio] came to power. There were a lot of statements that New York was going to become much more dangerous. Recently, as of December 2015, we know that stop-and-frisk statistics are down but the crime rate in New York has continued to decline despite the fear mongering.

The peak of carding took place between 2006 and 2011, when data indicates upwards of 400,000 contact cards were filled out. If you look at 2006, we had 86 homicides and 43 gun-related homicides. That was a time when carding was common and not being scrutinized the way it is now. Last year, there was a ban on carding, and we had 56 homicides and only 26 of those homicides were gun-related.

It depends on the statistics you're going to look at.

I think there's a lot motivation right now to deflect attention away from some of the issues of confidence in the police, of police accountability, and put the emphasis on crime and carding.

There's a long history of police associations deflecting issues of accountability onto crime — arguing that increased accountability will compromise public safety.

This interview has been condensed and edited.