So far, 2016 has been a deadly year for Toronto.
In just the first month there have been 38 shootings and 10 homicides, eight involving guns. The numbers are shocking in comparison to the same time last year that saw 23 shootings and two deaths.
The latest incidents happened at the end of the month in Toronto’s Chinatown when a gunman shot at a group of people, killing two and wounding three.
Members of the Toronto Chinatown Improvement Area say they are concerned about the violence and will be meeting with police to discuss ways to prevent more bloodshed. The group said it will help in the investigation via witness accounts and surveillance footage.
But the real looming question is what to do about all the violence and how to stop it.
Segun Akinsanya is very familiar with a life of violence. As a young boy living in Palmer Court he was involved with the wrong crowd – drugs, violence, robberies. In 2006 Akinsanya was convicted of stabbing another boy in the bathroom of a Coffee Time.
Now he works to stop others from going down that same path.
Akinsanya says he understands why there is violence in the city, and says it comes down to one issue — poverty.
“When I lived in Palmer Court and I woke up in my friend’s house, we opened up the cereal box and there’s cockroaches,” Akinsanya.
“If you wake up every day and there’s no money in your pocket, right. What do you do, who do you go to.”
He says it comes down to a cycle of poverty that is difficult to stop.
“This is a generational problem. …People not having opportunities and now they’re stuck in these situations,” Akinsanya says.
He says community engagement and involvement is key and rather then just putting more police officers on the streets, social support is also needed.
“We could use more social workers that are connected directly to prison transition,” says Akinsanya.
Akinsanya strongly emphasizes that the city must tackle poverty in at-risk neighbourhoods because that is where people are struggling to make ends meet. When people are barely getting by, desperation sets in, he adds.
“We shouldn’t be looking at it from like, ‘Okay, how can we analyze the gang situation and come in and try to figure out what’s going on.’ We should be looking at it as like, ‘What is our intervention? How are we dealing with poverty.'”