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Mayor John Tory speaks with public safety minister over Toronto gun violence

Peter Goffin, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Jul 5th, 2018

Toronto’s mayor has spoken with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale about the need to address a string of shootings that has left three dead and others injured in recent days.

“Minister Goodale and Mayor Tory … are anxious to work together with the province to bring criminals to justice and enhance crime prevention efforts,” Scott Bardsley, spokesman for Goodale’s office, said Wednesday.

“When people do not feel safe, when they feel that random attacks can take the lives of innocents just walking down the street, that’s obviously a deep concern,” Bardsley said.

Tory spokesman Don Peat said the mayor and Goodale spoke about “all aspects of gang-and-gun violence” and further ways the city and the federal government could work together to address the issue.

“The minister pledged to co-operate in any way he can to help Toronto,” Peat said Wednesday in an email.

Gun deaths have accounted for 23 of Toronto’s 52 homicides so far this year — a figure inflated by the deadly van attack that killed 10 people in April.

By contrast, there were 27 total homicides at this point last year, and 16 fatal shootings by the end of June 2017.

Tory has said that Toronto is one of the safest cities in the world, but that he has “grave concerns” about the number of shootings this year and is focusing his efforts on making sure all three levels of government work together to keep perpetrators of gun crime off the city’s streets.

“One of the reasons we have to get together as three governments and as the police service to talk about these things is because it does require multiple efforts on the part of multiple governments and agencies,” Tory told reporters Tuesday.

Toronto will apply for federal funding available to municipalities working to reduce crime, Tory said.

The government of Canada is accepting applications for a cut of the $10 million National Crime Prevention Strategy, Bardsley said.

Ottawa is also designing a “guns and gangs” initiative with provinces and municipalities, which will see $327.6 million over five years, then $100 million per year after that, invested in community-specific initiatives, and border security, Bardsley added.

Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders has said the vast majority of shootings in the city this year have been gang-related.

Officers in Toronto and surrounding jurisdictions laid more than 1,000 charges against 75 alleged members and associates of the Five Points Generalz street gang last month.

Police said the Generalz, linked to several shootings in the Greater Toronto Area, were “significantly disrupted” by the sweep, but acknowledged that gang activity would persist.

“We realize that drugs equal easy money and that there will always be people willing to step in and fill that void,” Acting Insp. Don Belanger said at the time.

Saunders has said he has a plan to target gangs in Toronto surgically and strategically, rather than flooding at-risk neighbourhoods with a police.

Overall, 11 people have been shot in Toronto since Friday morning when, police said, a driver near Shuter and George Streets took a shotgun out of her trunk and opened fire at a pedestrian, injuring the 21-year-old woman and a 69-year-old man on a bicycle.

Two men associated with the local rap scene — 21-year-old Jahvante Smart, also known as Smoke Dawg, and 28-year-old Ernest Modekwe — were killed in a separate incident near Queen Street West and Spadina Avenue on Saturday evening.

And police said Wednesday that one of four people injured in a shooting in Toronto’s Kensington Market neighbourhood Sunday night had died in hospital.

Investigators have also asked for the public’s help in finding an unidentified man who fired nine shots during a dispute near King Street West and Portland Street early Tuesday morning, sending one man to hospital with a bullet wound to the hip.

Investigators said they have no description of the shooter, but they believe he is violent, armed and dangerous.

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