In the wake of a rash of gun violence in Toronto, including the Danforth shooting on July 22 that left two people dead, 81 per cent of Torontonians believe there is a serious gun problem in the city, according to recent data from an Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News.
“The point of doing a survey like this is we really wanted to gauge the temperature of the city of Toronto,” Ipsos’ Darrell Bricker said. “How are people feeling after a particularly intense period in which there’s been a number of things happening in the city, culminating with what happened on the Danforth.”
There have been 59 homicides so far in 2018. Thirty have been a result of shootings.
Just over half (55 per cent) of Torontonians agree they are afraid of falling victim to gun violence, led by Millenials at 68 per cent, Gen Xers at 59 per cent and Boomers at 43 per cent.
Sixty-four per cent of people said they avoid certain neighbourhoods because they fear for their safety, however 56 per cent disagree the gun violence in Toronto is contained to only a few neighbourhoods, which suggests residents view the gun violence issue as a more widespread problem.
WATCH: Half of Torontonians avoiding crowds due to gun violence
Jooyung Lee, associate professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, said the fear of gun violence has been growing over the past two or three years. Lee also acknowledged the location of the shootings and the time of day that they’ve been happening have had an impact.
On June 14, two men opened fire at around 5 p.m. at a residential complex in the McCowan Road and Steeles Avenue East area. Two sisters, aged five and nine, were both shot and rushed to the Hospital for Sick Children. Initially, one of the girls was listed in critical condition, but police later said both were in stable condition.
On July 1, four people were injured, one fatally, after a shooting in Kensington Market at around 10:30 p.m.
“We’re seeing a number of shootings happening in the downtown core,” Lee said. “You know, the Kensington market shooting, then the Danforth is not too far from the core. These are areas that are typically frequented by the middle-class residents of Toronto who are typically shielded from everyday gun violence and other kinds of crime.”
“I think it’s really interesting that people are now really, really concerned about gun violence because it’s happening in these places that they might go with their friends or family,” he said.
But despite the fact that many Toronto residents feel there is a gun problem, eight in 10 people agree — 33 per cent strongly and 45 per cent somewhat — that the city itself is safe, compared to other cities of similar size.
Overall eight in 10 (80 per cent) of residents feel safe in the city. Ninety-six per cent of Torontonians feel safe at home, while 86 per cent feel safe in restaurants or coffee shops and 80 per cent feel safe taking public transit. Three in four people feel safe at public venues and most, 69 per cent, feel safe walking alone in their own neighbourhood after dark.
“People generally feel safe in the city, so when you ask them — ‘Is the city a safe place?’ — they say, ‘Yes.’ But when you ask them about something like gun violence — ‘Is it bad? Is it getting worse?’ — their perception is that it is getting worse,” Bricker said. “There’s this ongoing belief that even though the city is a safe place, this issue of gun violence makes us unsafe.”
While 58 per cent of people agree the city is taking the right steps to combat gun violence, only 13 per cent strongly agree with the sentiment, which suggests residents may feel more can be done. Four in 10 (42 per cent) disagree that the city is taking the right steps.
Furthermore, it appeared as though, despite the rash of gun violence the city has experienced, most Torontonians still have confidence in those in power, including Mayor John Tory and Police Chief Mark Saunders.
Seventy-nine per cent of Toronto residents trust Saunders and the officers underneath him to “take the appropriate actions to reduce gun violence” and around seven in 10 (73 per cent) trust community leaders and Tory. Premier Doug Ford ranked the lowest in trust, with 57 per cent of people believing he would take appropriate action.
Tory brought up the idea of a ban on all handguns in the city and 86 per cent of residents support the idea (61 per cent strongly and 25 per cent somewhat), while only 14 per cent oppose.
In a 41-to-four vote on July 24, city council voted to “urge” the federal government to ban handgun sales in Toronto. It called on the provincial government to ban handgun ammunition sales in the city, as well.
Members of city council also voted to spend millions on additional CCTV cameras in different parts of Toronto, implementation of the ShotSpotter program in a five-square-mile area of the city, Toronto police overtime costs as a part of the gun violence reduction plan, and community-based violence prevention and response initiatives.
In the aftermath of the violent events that have taken place across Toronto, Lee said, the worst thing residents can do is to “retreat into their own worlds.”
“One of the things that makes the city great and resilient is the fact that there is such a rich community life at various levels. So I would encourage people to not change their lives. I would say that Toronto is still quite safe, and one of our biggest natural protectors against violent crime is having people out on the street,” Lee said.
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos survey conducted between July 25–30, 2018, on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a random sample of 800 Toronto residents aged 18+ were interviewed online via the Ipsos I-Say panel and non-panel sources. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online surveys is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the survey is accurate to within ±4.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Toronto residents over the age of 18 been surveyed. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.