Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders says $4.5 million in new government funding will be used for a project aimed at reducing gun violence in the city following a recent spike in shootings.
Saunders said Project Community Space, largely aimed at targeting gangs in Toronto, will start to be implemented Thursday and will be fully in place by Monday.
News of the program comes two days after all three levels of government committed a total of $4.5 million in additional funding for Toronto police to fight gun violence.
“We have to figure out how to reduce the gun violence but at the same time not turn neighbourhoods and communities upside down,” he said.
Saunders said the project will be “intelligence-led” and include additional resources aimed at crime prevention as well as law enforcement.
“This is not an admission of flooding resources into communities,” he said.
“It’s about working collectively with communities. I’ll be speaking with the communities to figure out what their concerns, what their needs are and we’ll definitely address them.”
More officers will be working within the guns and gangs unit, Saunders said, and police will increase monitoring for bail compliance, officer presence in some communities affected by gun violence and community programs aimed at crime prevention.
“We can’t arrest our way out of this type of violence,” Saunders said. “This issue is not a one question, one answer deal.”
The program comes after a recent spike in shootings in Toronto that began on the August long weekend, with a number of shootings, some in broad daylight, happening since then as well.
Over the past five years, there has also been an overall increase in shootings in the city.
As of mid-August 2014, police had recorded 111 shootings with 139 victims, including those who had been injured or killed.
As of the same time in 2018, there were 248 shooting incidents involving 336 victims; as of Aug. 11 this year, Toronto police recorded 267 shooting incidents in the city with 401 victims.
Saunders, meanwhile, was tight-lipped on how many extra staff will be brought in to help combat the increase in gun violence.
“Because it’s intelligence-led, we will understand the patterns and trends of where we need to be and what type of resource that will be there,” he said. “It’s a multitude of different layers, all incorporated. But it is based on additional resources on top of what we have already.”
Oftentimes, communities will not see a visible increase in police presence, even though there may be additional officers in the community, Saunders added, implying undercover police will be a part of the project.
Police have been making some progress in the fight against gun violence, with six firearms seized and 10 arrested for gun-related offences over the past weekend alone, he said.
Saunders attributed the recent spike in shootings to an increase in gang activity, both from gangs that have already been operating in the city for quite a while and new gangs that have been coming into the city.
“It is for monetary gain … and the money is driven from narcotic distribution and human trafficking as well,” he said. “Everything is driven by money.”
Project Community Space is expected to last 11 weeks.
The outcome of the project will be announced in November.
-With files from the Canadian Press