Toronto’s top cop will detail his plan to combat gun violence in the city this morning, two days after Mayor John Tory announced a boost to police funding aimed at cracking down on shootings.
In the wake of a rash of gun violence in recent weeks — including a fatal shooting Friday that killed 29-year-old Kevin Reddick — Tory announced Monday that municipal, provincial and federal governments would each pledge $1.5 million “to help fund immediate efforts to address the current gun violence.”
The funding announcement did not provide details about how the money would be spent. Chief Mark Saunders has previously put additional provincial funds aimed at combating gun violence toward the force’s guns and gangs unit.
The $1.5 million from the province was part of a $25-million cash injection aimed at fighting gun violence that was announced by Premier Doug Ford last August. The bulk of the money — $18 million — was to go directly to Toronto police to spend how they saw fit. At the time, Ford proclaimed he was “from the old school — I love boots on the ground.”
Asked about how the provincial money was being spent, Saunders told the Star in May it was going to the guns and gangs task force. It’s not clear if the province is now directing Toronto police on how to spend the $1.5 million.
The money from the city, meanwhile, has not yet been approved by city council. Tory’s office has acknowledged that the mayor does not have the authority to commit the city to its share and that a proposal would be made at council’s next meeting in October.
The money pledged by the federal government is new spending for policing, a spokesperson for Bill Blair, the minister of border security and organized crime reduction, confirmed earlier this week.
Toronto has seen a surge in gun violence in recent weeks, with 267 confirmed shootings so far this year, a five-year high and nearly 20 more than this time last year.
But Toronto is at a three-year low when it comes to fatal shootings: there have been 20 so far this year, down from 30 this time last year, 23 in 2017 and 26 in 2016.
Crime experts and researchers stress that year-to-year comparisons do not accurately show crime trends, and that a longer view must be taken to gauge whether violence is increasing.
Earlier this year, the Toronto police board granted police a $30-million budget increase, bringing the total operating budget to above $1-billion for the first time since 2016.
Tory, who supported the increase, said at the time that the money would “put more police officers on the streets as part of the plan to address the increase in violence that we have seen in the city.”
The decision to invest more in policing to combat gun violence has come under fire by some crime and community safety experts, who say the money would be better spent addressing the reasons that young men decide to pick up guns.
The city’s $1.5-million share is the amount as was needed to fund eight new dedicated youth hubs at city-run sites, a proposal that was rejected by Tory and a majority of councillors earlier this year.
More to come.
With files from Jennifer Pagliaro
Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and policing. Reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter: @wendygillis