Will more police on the streets be enough to curb wave of gun crime in Toronto?

An extra 200 police officers will deployed overnight on Toronto streets, in the hopes of stopping a recent spate of deadly shootings. But advocates and experts warn the problem won't be solved just by putting boots on the ground.

Police must work on how they relate to communities, advocate says

Toronto police seized dozens of firearms as a result of raids that police Chief Mark Saunders said were partially motivated by growing public fears about gun violence. (Paul Smith/CBC)
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Fighting Toronto's gun crime problem with $3 million in extra policing is "a suppression tactic," according to a Canadian author who's written about firearms culture.

"What they're trying to do is to go after the people who have known gang affiliations and say: 'Hey, we're watching you,'" said A.J Somerset, author of Arms: The Culture and Credo of the Gun.

The police want to "put a lot of resources on those people, to increase their risk [of arrest]," he told The Current's guest host Ioanna Roumeliotis. 

As part of a $15-million "gun violence reduction plan," additional officers will be deployed overnight for eight weeks after a spate of shootings in the city

The scene of a shooting in Toronto's Kensington Market neighbourhood on July 1. There have been more than 200 shootings in the city so far this year; 24 of those have resulted in death. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

"After eight weeks. the summer will be over. These sorts of public shootings and public gun-carrying and so on is largely a warm weather phenomenon," Somerset said.

As well as the extra policing, $12 million will be invested in community programs, in what Somerset called a good way to address the problem in the long term.

Kelly Whetter's Gabriel Nikov was gunned down in 2016. She tells Ioanna Roumeliotis about what needs to be done to tackle gun violence. 1:38

It's about how, not how many

Jamil Jivani, a lawyer and author, agreed that in some cases more law enforcement is "an important piece of the puzzle," but the nature of how that policing operates is crucial, and minority communities need to be reassured that only criminal elements will be targeted.

Jamil Jivani argued that that way in which police interact with communities is vital for success. (Wim Van Cappellen)

If all the interactions involve delivering bad news or enforcing punitive measures, he added, that leads to anxiety and negative relationships.

"There has not been a really strong effort to communicate ... that this policing is going to be different," he said.

"That when you see more cops come into your neighborhood, they are really going to be able to target the criminal elements, and that innocent people — innocent young men — aren't going to suffer over-policing by consequence."

Listen to the full discussion near the top of this web page.


This segment was produced by The Current's Jessica Linzey and Danielle Carr.

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