Toronto has low crime, not 'no crime,' chief says

Toronto police Chief Bill Blair says that the city remains a safe place to live, despite an increased number of shootings throughout this year.

Toronto police Chief Bill Blair says that the city remains a safe place to live, despite an increased number of shootings throughout this year.

Blair spoke with reporters on Tuesday morning, in the wake of a holiday weekend in which a toddler was grazed by a bullet and a man was shot moments after a fireworks display wrapped up on Canada Day.

The police chief said the public were out taking part in a number of major events on the weekend, including the Pride parade, Canada Day celebrations and the Euro 2012 soccer final.

Toronto police Chief Bill Blair said that his force is taking steps to reduce the number of guns on the street and to target those responsible for gun activity. (CBC)

With so much going on, Blair said, police were on patrol throughout the city and they are actively investigating the shooting incidents that occurred.

"There were no murders this weekend, there were a number of shooting occurrences," he said.

"When we say that this is a safe city and that we have low crime, we’re not saying there is no crime. And anyone who suggests otherwise simply isn’t being really honest about it."

The police keep tabs on the total number of reported shootings throughout the year, a figure which is posted on their website.

As of July 3, police say there have been 131 shooting occurrences since the start of the year.

Compared with the same time last year, that’s an increase of 29.7 per cent. But it is similar to the number of shootings that had occurred by mid-year 2009.

Blair said police are concerned about the increased number of shootings, but he said there has been "no great spike" in the number of people who were injured or killed in those incidents.

"Any time someone discharges a firearm in the city of Toronto, the people of Toronto are put at risk," he said.

"And so we take those crimes very seriously, they’re all investigated and people are being held accountable for it."

The chief said that police are taking measures to target those responsible for gun activity on city streets.

"We’re working very hard to get those guns off the street and to deal with those individuals who would use guns in such a dangerous way with a depraved indifference to the lives and safety of others and put others at risk."

‘Shoot or be shot mentality’

Toronto police have also dealt with several high-profile shooting incidents in recent weeks that occurred in busy public places.

On June 2, a shooting inside a food court at the Eaton Centre left one man dead and another with fatal injuries. Five other people were wounded. A male suspect turned himself into police and faces two charges of first-degree murder and five charges of attempted murder.

Just over two weeks after the Eaton Centre shooting, police rushed to the scene of a fatal shooting on the patio of an ice-cream parlour in the city’s Little Italy neighbourhood on June 18. One man was killed and another was injured. Police later arrested a male suspect who has been charged with first-degree murder.

Coun. Adam Vaughan says the gun violence problem can't be solved solely by sending in police to investigate crimes after the fact. (CBC)

Coun. Adam Vaughan said this particular trend of shootings in public places raises the possibility that some of the people involved in gun violence on city streets are developing a "shoot or be shot mentality."

Vaughan said that if that type of climate emerges, it creates dangerous situations.

"Something awful has happened this summer in too many parts of Toronto," he said in an interview with CBC News.

"But the way to deal with this is not to just respond to the incidents, it’s to get proactive about it."