Toronto’s police chief Mark Saunders announced Wednesday police will launch an 11-week initiative called “Project Community Space” to combat gun and gang violence in the city.
The project will be funded by the $4.5 million in immediate funding previously promised by the federal, provincial and municipal governments following the recent rash of gun violence in the city.
“Project Community Space” will be begin Thursday and will run until October 31. Saunders said they will provide an update in November on the program’s outcome and continued plans to help fight gun and gang related violence in the city.
The program will include officers from across the city under the centralized command of the guns and gangs task force and will be intelligence-led.
Saunders said the initiative will focus on street gangs, reducing violent crime and firearm offences. “We have listened to our community members who say that gun violence an safety concerns to live in, work in and enjoy their neighbourhoods,” says Saunders.
It will include proactive monitoring of bail compliance, more engagement with the community and community programs, and increased presence and visibility in neighbourhoods frequently associated with street gangs and gun violence.
When asked whether he believed there was too much leniency in the court system when it comes to bail for firearm-related offences, Saunders said, “I’m not sure what a viable excuse is for giving someone bail that shoots somebody.”
Saunders also mentioned at least two instances in which people out on bail or probation for firearm-related offences have become victims of gun violence
He added there needs to be a stronger deterrent factor to shooting someone, but “this plan is addressing the now and building out with the partnerships, so we can figure out how to slow it down. People aren’t born to be street-gang members.”
This fall, Toronto police will be holding 31 gang prevention town halls aimed at “educating and supporting families who live in areas most affected by gang activity and whose children maybe at risk of recruitment by gangs in their neighbourhoods.”
The townhalls will be held by the Integrated Gun and Gang Task Force and will be separate from the new funding.
The number of shootings in the city has increased significantly since 2014.
There were 113 shootings that left 141 people hurt by mid-August that year, compared to 267 shootings with 401 victims at the same time this year.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said gun control will become an election issue as the coming campaign looms, but has yet to detail the Liberals’ plan.