Toronto gun homicides rise 200% this year, police say

Fatal shootings in Toronto increased 200 per cent in the first four months of this year compared to the same time last year, Toronto police statistics reveal.

Toronto Staff. Insp. Greg McLane attributes rise in homicides to more criminals carrying guns

Joseph Anzolona, 26, and Cynthia Mullapudi, 24, were both shot multiple times at close range as they sat in the back seat of an SUV just after shopping at a nearby LCBO. (Toronto police) (Toronto Police)

Fatal shootings in Toronto have increased 200 per cent in the first four months of this year as compared to the same time last year, police statistics reveal.

In the first four months of 2016, the figures show there were 18 homicides involving guns, compared to six fatal shootings by this time in 2015.

There has also been a 100 per cent increase in the number of homicides so far this year, with 28 recorded up until May 2.

There were 14 homicides over the same period last year. 

Police say they believe the rise in shooting deaths is partly due to criminals carrying their guns instead of hiding them in secure places.

"It's a considerable increase in homicides," Staff Inspector Greg McLane of Toronto Police's homicide squad said Tuesday.

"It's hard to say whether there are more guns out there, but I'm of the belief that more people are carrying their guns. I ask myself this question: why do street gang and criminal lifestyle people feel they can walk around in communities in the city without fear of being stopped by police?"

McLane said he thinks people previously stored their guns for easy access, including in such unlikely places as trees and diaper bags, but now they are more likely to keep them on their persons.

He said if people start carrying their guns, then it means other people have to start carrying their firearms.

The guns may be stolen, loaned for specific reasons, bought and sold, or may be coming in from the U.S., he said. 

He acknowledged that many shootings in the city could involve street gangs and people who have criminal lifestyles.

McLane said fatal shootings can be harder for police to solve than murders involving other types of weapons, or those involving domestic disputes, because there is less contact between the assailant and victim at the time of death. 

Co-operation from the public makes all the difference, McLane said.

For example, he said information gleaned from the public and from surrounding infrastructure enabled police to make a "speedy arrest" in the double murder outside a shopping mall in the Ellesmere Road and Victoria Park Avenue area Friday night.

Joseph Anzolona, 26, and Cynthia Mullapudi, 24, were both shot multiple times at close range as they sat in the back seat of an SUV in a parking lot near an LCBO. Police arrested a 24-year-old man and charged him with two counts of first-degree murder.

"Every murder speaks for itself. They are all different," McLane said. "But the level of cooperation from the public in that case was excellent."