Worry, fear, anger as Toronto awakes to bloody public shootout

With two dead and 22 injured in a late-night shootout in Toronto's east end, listeners to CBC Radio One spoke about about their concerns and fears over the rising level of violence in the city.

'I'm a woman, so we're always afraid'

It didn't take long for ordinary citizens of Toronto to express their feelings about the latest brazen public shooting. 

On Tuesday morning, less than 12 hours after a wild late-night gunfight in Scarborough left two dead, 19 wounded and three trampled, CBC Metro Morning host Matt Galloway asked people to call in. 

The result was a wide range of views about the shootings, violence in the city and the causes. 

Gay, whose 16-year-old daughter was robbed and mugged in the city over the past eight days, said Toronto has "been immune for so long from what happens in large cities. We have to adapt to being like large American cities."

But most weren't accepting that Toronto is heading in that direction.

Emmanuel, who lives near to the scene of the shooting, said his first reaction was for the "safety for my family, for my kids." 

But he also said he is "angry because I just live two streets away from the site, and as a parent, as a community member here, I continue to raise sad questions about the safety of our city and the responsibility that we have — all of us — to try to get to the root causes ..."

"Young people who are not thinking"

What are the root causes and how to deal with these shocking episodes of violence are unclear. Different people look at it from different perspectives.

City councillor and vice-chair of the Police Services Board, Michael Thompson, called it "a very disturbing trend  ... young people who are not thinking." 

But Chris Penrose who works with Success Beyond Limits, a youth outreach program in Toronto's Jane-Finch neighbourhood, says an incident like this "doesn't happen overnight."

"I feel like we're becoming more polarized.  I feel like we're becoming more desensitized. I feel that people are becoming more hopeless about what we can do around the violence in the city."

"We're back in that place we were in early June, when there was that shooting at the Eaton Centre. when there's that shock, that disgust, that question of safety," he told Galloway.

"I've had scary things happen to me ..."

The feeling of despair was echoed by Jen, a young woman who said there's a reality on the streets and in the community that many people may not be aware of.  "I'm a woman, so we're always afraid."

"I'm a woman and I live in Scarborough.  I've had scary things happen to me — things that make your heart pound," she said.

But when asked how Toronto should deal with the rising level of violence in the city, Jen said she didn't think reactionary measures were the answer.

"Fear isn't the answer.  Being afraid isn't the answer. Something definitely needs to be done. I just don't know the answer." 

Emmanuel expressed what many people in the city are probably thinking.

"At the local level your sense of security is dented," he said.

But he added, he needs questions answered.

"Why do we have young people in our city who resort to guns to resolve differences? Why do we have easy access to guns? What is it we need to do to go to the roots of violence in this city?"