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Looking back at 1991, Toronto’s record year for murders

WATCH ABOVE: It's been more than two decades since 89 murders happened in Toronto. Erica Vella looks back at 1991, why the homicide rate was so high and what similarities there are to 2018.

It’s a city with the nickname “Toronto the Good,” but for the first time in 27 years a new record has been reached in the number of murders that have happened in a year.

Since publishing this article, there have been 89 homicides in 2018. Previously 1991 held the record with 89 murders, and former homicide detective Mike Davis said people living in the city were on edge.

READ MORE: With man’s fatal shooting, 2018 ties for Toronto’s deadliest year on record

“It was an uneasy feeling for citizens of Toronto and I think the same feeling is starting as well, this year. It an uncomfortable feeling and it’s a feeling that your city isn’t safe,” Davis said, adding crack-cocaine was a contributing factor in the increase of crime at the time.

“Drugs are always behind a lot of the murders and when it comes to gangs and territory.

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READ MORE: How Toronto gun violence in 2018 compares with past years

“It was pretty prevalent in 1991. There were a lot of murders surrounding the crack cocaine itself. We had gang murders as well in 1991.”

Davis said by the end of January that year, there were already nine murders.

“On Jan. 27 of that year, I investigated the murder of a young doctor. Carolyn Warrick … her murder number at that time … was number nine,” he said.

“So that was nine murders within the new year. So that just started to give us an idea where we may be going.”

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By the end of October, that number had increased to 77 homicides.

“Records dictate that Toronto is one of the safest cities in North America. But still, saying that and reading in the papers and watching the news and seeing murders taking place every day or every other day, doesn’t help people to feel safe in the city,” he said.

The following years, there was a decline in the number of murders that happened in Toronto. But for the first time on Wednesday, Toronto matched the 1991 record.

READ MORE: GTA has already seen more homicides in 2018 than all of 2017

Davis said there is one difference he’s noticed with the violent activity happening in Toronto: those committing the crimes have become more bold.

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“It doesn’t seem to matter where these murders are taking place this year. It’s in broad daylight, shopping malls, busy streets, playgrounds, schools,” he said.

“It doesn’t seem to matter where these gangsters are wanting to shoot and kill people.”