Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders calls for more public help on gun violence
Police chief says gun crimes committed by small number of people
Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders says he's troubled by the fact that police did not receive a 911 call after Candice Rochelle Bobb, who was five months pregnant, was fatally shot Sunday in a drive-by shooting.
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"It saddens me that we have a community that is asking for help but they're climatizing to the fact that shots are fired and nobody is calling," said Saunders in an interview Wednesday with CBC's Metro Morning.
Saunders also told host Matt Galloway there are "more guns out there" and said police have seized more than 250 guns so far this year, including more than 100 handguns.
Saunders said gun crimes in Toronto are committed by a small group of people "that are carrying guns and using guns to resolve issues."
Bobb, 35, of Mississauga, Ont. was fatally shot in the chest while riding in the back seat of a car in the city's Rexdale neighbourhood. She was five months pregnant and the baby was delivered by emergency C-section. Police have said the child is in stable condition.
Multiple shots were fired at the car carrying Bobb and three others while they were in the John Garland Boulevard and Jamestown Crescent area of suburban Rexdale. Bobb was pronounced dead at Etobicoke General Hospital. The three other occupants of the car were not injured.
Police have said the shooting may be gang-related but don't believe Bobb was specifically targeted.
Saunders said key to solving gun crimes is getting the public to share information with police.
"Members of this community know who those people are that are carrying firearms," he said. "We need them to assist us in identifying who those people are."
Is the end of carding a factor?
Galloway asked Saunders whether the move away from police carding — when police gather information during so-called street checks — is hindering investigations into gun crimes as police union president Mike McCormack suggested yesterday.
"He's over-simplifying it," said Saunders. "There are a lot of factors that are causing people to carry firearms right now."
Saunders said he does not support stopping people at random and interviewing them but said speaking to people in troubled neighbourhoods remains an important investigative tool.
"When we use our intelligence-led tools to try and solve crimes, we get better results," he said.
Is there a gang war?
Galloway asked Saunders if the recent spate of shootings suggests Toronto is mired in a gang war.
"There are many rivalries that are occurring within gang subculture, which is why we have these shootings," he said.
Why not meet with Black Lives Matter?
Galloway also asked Saunders about the Black Lives Matter protests earlier this year, in which demonstrators calling for more transparency into police shootings camped outside police headquarters. They've asked for more information about a number of shootings, such as the death of Andrew Loku, who was shot by police last July.
Galloway asked why Saunders didn't go into the crowd and meet directly with the protesters, as Premier Kathleen Wynne did in April when the protestors gathered outside Queen's Park.
"I really didn't think that I had anything to offer," said Saunders. "Their specific demand from me was to identify the person who shot Andrew Loku and charge him with murder. And that wasn't going to happen. Rather go out there and have that YouTube moment of people yelling, that wasn't going to move anything further."
Saunders said he agreed to meet with the protesters in private but they twice "bailed out" on him "at the last minute."
"My door was never shut," he said.
Saunders also pointed out that police shootings are investigated by the Special Investigations Unit, not the Toronto Police Service, a process that he said can be "frustrating on all sides."
Pot dispensaries: why aren't police acting?
Galloway also asked Saunders why police aren't doing more to curb the recent rise in the number of marijuana dispensaries across the city. Saunders admitted dispensaries are operating in a "grey area," and with the federal government expected to deliver new legislation on marijuana next year, police are taking a wait-and-see approach while investigating any complaints that come in.
"We're waiting for the federal government to do what they need to do," said Saunders. The chief said he's working with city hall and Crown prosecutors to "determine what the best course of action is."
Saunders said for now, he's reluctant to spend police resources investigating marijuana shop operators only to have the cases thrown out.
CBC Toronto streamed the entire interview on Facebook. You can watch it below: