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Toronto police chief extends guns and gangs initiative amid record number of shootings

Suspects in Toronto west-end shooting caught on camera
WATCH ABOVE: As Toronto police continue their search for three suspects in a Wednesday evening shooting that left five teens in hospital, video of that attack has surfaced. Jamie Mauracher reports.

Amid a record number of shooting victims in Toronto this year, the city’s police chief is extending an initiative aimed at cracking down on gun violence stemming from street gang activity “until further notice.”

“We are experiencing the highest number of shootings recorded to date in Toronto — a total of 237 this year — where someone has been injured or killed. We will keep the extended resources in place at this time,” Chief Mark Saunders said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon.

News of the extension of the initiative, dubbed Project Community Space, comes after eight people were injured in shootings on Wednesday and Thursday morning — several of whom are teenagers.

READ MORE: Toronto police chief says almost 250 arrests so far in ‘Project Community Space’

Saunders first announced the 11-week initiative in August, a project that has seen frontline uniformed and specialized officers join the integrated gun and gang task force. Officers have been tasked with checking on people with bail conditions, enhancing community engagement and increasing visibility in higher crime areas where street gangs have been present.

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Throughout the course of Project Community Space, Saunders said 391 people were arrested and 908 firearm charges were laid. He said that number represents just over a quarter of the overall charges laid. Saunders went on to say 11 per cent of the charges laid were for violent offences and nine per cent were for outstanding warrants.

As part of the project, he said 1,857 bail compliance checks were conducted.

READ MORE: 5 people injured after ‘targeted’ shooting in west-end Toronto apartment

During a news conference Wednesday evening, Saunders said police have been actively working to make arrests.

“If we’re going to get this right, it’s not a matter of apprehension. There are a lot of moving parts to this. But when someone does pull a trigger, we actively and aggressively do what we can to arrest,” he said.

Project Community Space, which is estimated to cost $4.5 million, was funded equally by all three levels of government. Saunders said the project extension “will continue to draw on these original funds,” but it’s unclear if further funding will be needed to continue paying for the initiative.