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Crime

Spike in shootings? A closer look at the numbers after Toronto’s violent weekend

WATCH: Long weekend violence in Toronto, GTA spills into holiday Monday

The August long weekend was a violent one for Toronto, with 17 people shot over a three-day span.

While none of the gunplay proved deadly, the sheer number could be seen as an apparent spike in gun violence.

But, according to Toronto police statistics, shooting deaths in the city are currently at a three-year low.

So far, 19 people have been killed in shootings in Toronto. That’s down from 30 this time last year, 23 this time in 2017 and 26 this time in 2016.

During the same period in 2015, there were 14 shooting deaths in the city.

Despite this weekend’s surge, overall gun-crime incidents in 2019 are comparable to past years.

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Toronto has seen 244 “shooting occurrences”— in which there may or may not be injuries — with 365 victims. The victim count includes both gun-related fatalities and injuries.

In 2018, there were 238 occurrences with 324 victims; in 2017, 226 shooting occurrences with 335 victims; and in 2016, there were 237 shooting occurrences with 331 victims.

The numbers were slightly lower during this time period in 2015 — with 177 shooting occurrences and 282 victims.

2018 and 2019 saw a higher number of deaths and injuries from guns compared to 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Last year, 51 people were killed in shootings, including a 10-year-old girl and 18-year-old high school student in the high-profile Danforth shooting.

READ MORE: ‘Our hearts go out to you’: Danforth community mourns mass shooting ahead of 1 year anniversary

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The average death toll through 2014 and 2018 is 33 gun-related deaths. In 2005, known to the city as the “summer of the gun,” 53 people died in shootings.

In Canada 

National gun-crime numbers show an increase in incidents across the country.

According to Statistics Canada, although firearm-related violent crime declined between 2009 and 2013, where it “reached its lowest point in recent years,” it has been on the incline ever since.

The data shows that between 2013 and 2017, gun crime in Canada went up 42 per cent.

In 2013, there were 5,126 firearm-related gun crime incidents. By 2017, that number hit 7,660.

Forty-three percent of the national increase can be attributed to more gun-crime victims in Toronto, the same report found.

Statistics Canada data also shows that homicides committed with a firearm have jumped over the years.

In 2013, about 27 per cent of homicides involved a gun. That number jumped to 38 per cent by 2016.

According to more recent StatsCan data, there were 266 people killed by a firearm in 2017 — 43 more than in 2016. The year marked the fourth consecutive increase in the number of firearm homicides.

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In 2018, 249 homicide victims in Canada were killed in shootings.

Violent weekend in Toronto

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said Monday that no victims were located in four of the 11 shooting incidents that unfolded from Saturday to Monday.

The shootings occurred at a range of locations over the Civic Holiday weekend, though Saunders said about 33 per cent of them happened in the northwest part of the city.

WATCH: Man seriously hurt in early morning shooting at luxury Toronto home

Man seriously injured following early morning shooting on the Bridle Path
Man seriously injured following early morning shooting on the Bridle Path

One man was shot at a mansion in an upscale neighbourhood, reportedly being used as an Airbnb, on Saturday. Hours later, another man was shot at a nightclub in the condo-filled Liberty Village area.

Perhaps the most jarring of the incidents unfolded early Monday, when gunfire erupted outside a different nightclub, this time in a residential area of North York.

A total of seven people were injured.

“I find this one very bothersome,” Saunders said of the District 45 nightclub shooting.

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“I find it disturbing when you’ve got over 100 people and someone would be brazen enough to pull out a gun and start shooting. It’s very early. It’s very solvable.”

Mere hours later, police reported that a vehicle was shot at downtown, injuring three people.

Saunders said the investigations are ongoing in each of the cases, but that there was so far no indication any of the shootings are connected in some way.

WATCH: 7 injured, 1 critically, after shooting at Toronto nightclub

7 injured, 1 critically, after shooting at north-end Toronto nightclub
7 injured, 1 critically, after shooting at north-end Toronto nightclub

This weekend’s events led the chief to intensify police presence in parts of the city.

Saunders told reporters that “additional resources” will be implemented in “specific places” in an effort to reduce gun crime, but he did not specify what the methods may be.

He noted that the incidents aren’t confined to one area and that gun crime doesn’t follow a specific direction.

According to Toronto police’s statistics, updated as of Aug. 4, most of the shootings so far this year have happened in July (55). April saw the second-most shootings, at 36.

READ MORE: Map: Where Toronto’s 2018 gun homicides happened

Last year, the most gun-crime incidents occurred in December, at 49. August came in second, with 45.

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In response to the weekend shootings, Toronto Mayor John Tory reiterated his belief that a handgun ban would help the city quell the violence.

He called the events “absolutely unacceptable”

“This was always put forward as a part of the answer to gun violence together with changes to other laws affecting things like bail, additional support for police, and the paramount need for all three governments to invest together in kids, families and neighbourhoods,” Tory wrote in a statement.

The federal government passed a law strengthening background checks and forcing retailers to improve record-keeping practices on firearm sales, but did not move toward a handgun ban.

Ryerson criminology professor Tammy Landau said it’s hard to nail down a solution to gun violence when the incidents differ. She said it’s unlikely “one response” could prevent or rid gun crime in the city.

“They’ve been saying, ‘We’ve been trying to get the guns off the streets for as long as I can remember,” she told Global News previously. “If they had a solution, they would have implemented it by now.”

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