Toronto Mayor John Tory outlined a number of community intervention and prevention measures to fight gun and gang violence in the city on Wednesday.
The initiatives, $12 million in total which will be funded in part by the federal government, offer support to families and victims impacted by violence and target youths most susceptible to entering a life of crime.
“Nobody is born bad. No person in the world is born bad. No child is born bad,” Tory said during a news conference Wednesday morning.
“There are various circumstances that will lead kids to a situation in which, I can hardly imagine,… to pick up a gun, put it in their pocket and then pull that gun out and shoot somebody.”
Tory said the community programs expansion includes doubling the size of the city’s community crisis response program from four staff to eight to help neighbourhoods and families cope with violence, adding more youth violence prevention staff to work with youth, and creating more job opportunities.
“I believe that these kinds of investments, made in areas that are marginalized for a variety of reasons, are going to help keep kids, who might for one reason or another, be tempted to stray off a course,” Tory said.
The mayor said there will also be more job fairs in marginalized communities, and Toronto Community Housing will hire an additional 50 young people this summer.
Tory said various social services will see an influx of cash, as the city has applied for grants from the National Crime Prevention Funds and municipal funds will fill in the rest.
The announcement comes less than a week after the mayor said $15 million from all three levels of government was earmarked for efforts to curb gun violence, including programs aimed at preventing youth from joining gangs.
The rise in the number of shootings in Toronto this year prompted the mother of three young girls, who were shot at a playground earlier this summer, to join community advocates in pleading for action.
Stacey Long attended a Toronto Board of Health meeting on Monday as staff provided an update on an upcoming research project into the root causes of community violence.
Last week, Toronto police said they are deploying more officers during the overnight hours for the summer to combat the gun and gang violence plaguing the city’s streets in recent weeks.
The new initiative, which affects around 200 officers and will cost up to $3 million, will begin July 20 and continue for an eight-week period.
LISTEN: Scott McKean, Toronto’s manager of community safety and wellbeing
Tory said last week the officer shift change is just one aspect of a multi-pronged approach to reduce the level of violence in the city.
VIDEO: Toronto police, mayor launch 8-week plan to curb gun violence
—With a file from Nick Westoll and The Canadian Press