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Handgun seizure up 65%

Last Updated Jun 15, 2018 at 7:04 pm EDT

As the city grapples with the brazen shooting of two young girls at an east-end playground in broad daylight, data published by Toronto police indicates a startling rise in the number of firearms seized this year.

Toronto police seized 132 handguns in the first three months of 2018. That’s a 65 per cent increase compared to the same period last year when 80 handguns were confiscated, and it’s a 94 per cent increase compared to 2016 when 68 handguns were seized.

Toronto police have also documented a rise in the number of shotgun and rifles seized; 86 for the first three months of 2017 compared to 121 in the same period this year. That’s a 41 per cent increase.

A credible police source tells CityNews about 55 per cent of guns used in crimes in Toronto were traceable to the United States. 45 per cent were obtained in Canada.

CityNews spoke with former gang member Marcell Wilson a.k.a “Junior” who said he believes the number of guns flowing into Toronto each year is likely in the thousands.

Wilson was a gang member in the nineties in the west-end neighbourhood know as Swansea Mews, near Parkdale. Into the 2000s, he worked for organized crime syndicates that he would not name.

When it comes to guns, Wilson said his gang brought hundreds into the streets of Toronto from the United States. They would trade drugs for American firearms.

“The majority of times it was Americans coming up here with the guns you guys would trade – they’d leave with the drugs and you guys got your guns,” said Wilson. “That’s how it went. Similar still today? I’d say so. How else would it work?”

Wilson added because they are harder to access, he doesn’t believe we will see more automatic rifles like in the United States on Toronto streets, but that could change.

“If we could access them, I believe that would be the gun of choice,” said Wilson. “And when someone does have a weapon like that, something that is of an automatic capability that closely guarded? Oh absolutely. It’s like gold. It gives you power.”

Wilson now works with other former gang members as a part of grassroots organizations who travel the world and talk to extremists, gang members and child soldiers.

“A lot of the work I do now — is based on trying to redeem retribution of some of my responsibility in what’s happening now.” said Wilson. “I feel personally responsible for some of it.”

Wilson said the current state of gun culture plaguing our city is worse than anything he could have ever imagine.

“You didn’t hurt people outside of our world. We call them civilians. A civilian casualty could mean your life because you brought negative attention to the organization,” said Wilson. “There is no body — there is no structure. Which makes it one thousand times harder to combat it.”

Wilson believes a lot of the issues we see today can be fixed at home and within communities. He also notes the amount of child services in Toronto’s at-risk communities — from community centres to after school programs — has decreased rapidly and they can actually have a real impact.