Hamilton’s top cop says the city’s police service is reallocating more resources to front-line work due to increasing violence in the city, which has seen shootings rise by 24 per cent, year over year.
Chief Frank Bergen told Global News that officers have seized 234 guns in the city so far in 2022, which has already surpassed the 224 taken off the streets in 2021.
Bergen said Hamilton Police have had conversations with federal, provincial and greater Toronto-area partners in recent times over the transit of guns, which continue to move with some freedom across the Golden Horseshoe corridor.
Results from an eight-month Toronto Police investigation, dubbed Project Barbell, shone a light on how big that problem is with 62 firearms taken off the streets since May.
Investigators said most of the weapons were handguns but five were AR-15-type firearms and three were AK-type firearms with only one traced back to Ontario and the rest sourced from the United States.
“I can tell you the trend is not good,” Bergen told 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton.
“We can sit back and we can falsely celebrate the fact that we’re at a historic low for homicides — we’re at four — but our shootings are at 41.”
Bergen’s comment come after police handled three violent incidents over the weekend, including the stabbing of grocery store employee Sunday morning, and two shootings Saturday and Sunday just 200 metres apart in downtown Hamilton.
“The reality is, there seems to be this malaise or some type of thing going on right now that people need to arm themselves,” Bergen said.
“Instead of doing community work, they’re looking after their own self and looking for fights.”
Bergen said recent investigations point to a connection between neighbourhood gangs and a drug sub-culture in which groups are “picking fights” with each other.
“These are the ones that you see that are the shootings into homes,” Bergen said.
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“They are the, ‘I can get you, I know where you are’ type of things.”
Bergen said the streets are where residents will see a noticeable increase in officers, not only to deter violent crime but to aid with the city’s commitment to limit traffic fatalities, which have hit a 10-year high in 2022.
Covert methods of tracing and confiscating guns will continue, but the chief said being ever present in the community and talking with residents will also be a priority in the near future.
“Right now, you’re probably going to see all resources available will be deployed to the front line to try to mitigate this growing trend,” Bergen said.