Canada’s largest city isn’t exactly associated with high levels of crime as opposed to the largest metropolises in the United States. However, in a city with a population of 2.61 million (as of 2011), it is inevitable that a noticeable amount of crime will occur throughout the year. For the sake of focus, we will look at the occurrence of violent crimes (namely shootings) within the greater Toronto area.
According to statistics from the Toronto Police Service, there have been 282 shootings in 2016 as of September 6th. This marks an increase of 46.1% from to-date shootings in 2015. When looking at year-to-date homicides, there have been 48 this year, compared to 35 at this time last year. That marks a 37.1 increase. The chart below is from the Toronto Police Service:
With the data provided, it unfortunately shows that shootings are on quite a noticeable upswing from 2015. These stats, of course, have not gone unnoticed by authorities and the media. According to a CBC article from this May, gun homicides had seen a 200% increase year-over-year at the time.
2016 numbers are approaching that of 2005, a year that has carried the name “The Year of the Gun”, in which 52 shooting homicides were documented.
Why is this happening? Police attribute it to criminals carrying more guns instead of storing them away in hidden, secure places. Other theories include police turning their attention more towards high-profile protests rather than individual crime, although this has been met with a wealth of counterarguments.
One of the problems that is becoming more and more difficult to ignore is the influx of gang-related activity around the city. An article in The Star from June quotes current Toronto mayor John Tory, who says that violence around the city seems to be “confined to people involved in the gang subculture — people who don’t hesitate to use guns to settle even the most minor of disputes.”
Although the apparent surge in shootings in The Queen City might be a cause for some worry, it’s important to note that Toronto is still quite a safe city to live in. Like any city, crime tends to be concentrated in certain neighbourhoods.
While shooting data was difficult to come by, one infographic from Toronto Life attributes over 900 assaults to the Waterfront neighbourhood in 2011. This is apparently more than twice the amount than anywhere else in the city.
Compare these occurrences to Chicago, IL, which just saw its 500th homicide over Labour Day weekend in the United States. According to the Chicago Police Department and CNN, homicides in Chicago could very well reach close to 700 by the end of the year based on current trends.
What is being done?
The spike in Toronto shootings this year doesn’t necessarily open the door to rushing to conclusions. If there is a continuous spike year-over-year, this would be a different story. However, the city has long-implemented a selection of programs to help raise awareness of gun violence in and around the city.
According to The Star, the Toronto Police created the Toronto Police Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS), which utilizes the community to help combat gun violence.