The head of the Toronto police homicide squad says the clearance rates for homicides in 2022 is the highest the city has seen in the last 20 years.
“No Major city comes close to that,” Inspector Hank Idsinga told Global News in a year end interview explaining that out of the 67 murders investigated this year, there have been arrests in 56, saying a clearance rate about 80 percent is almost unheard of.
Idsinga credits video surveillance, forensic investigators and tips from the public for the high success rate and said investigative genetic genealogy is allowing cases where suspect profiles have been left, to be solved.
“15 years ago, if you caught a murder on video, it was an anomaly. You put a message out of the entire office. ‘Come look everybody. we got a murder on video’. Nowadays, if you don’t get a murder on video, it’s an anomaly,” Idsinga said.
Of the 67 homicides to date, 42 were fatal shootings. Idsinga said roughly 80 per cent of the gun murder cases have also been cleared. “Shootings are notoriously difficult to solve,” added Idsinga.
Toronto recorded 80 homicides in 2021 compared with 69 in 2020 and 70 in 2019.
Statistics on the Toronto Police website find that in 2022, the busiest day of the week for homicides was Saturday with 16 taking place on that day.
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The month of January saw the most homicides with ten, followed by September, in which eight murders were recorded.
Idsinga, who has been in charge of the Homicide Squad since mid 2018 spoke about the recent arrest of Joseph Sutherland, a Napanee man, charged with the cold case murders of Erin Gilmour and Susan Tice, Toronto women strangled and sexually assaulted four months apart in 1983.
Idsinga said the cold case unit — which falls under his charge — knew it was just a matter of time before they zeroed in the suspect.
“To finally get to the point of being able to arrest the accused is just phenomenal and the office is still on a high from that,” he said.
Idsinga said there are roughly 50 to 60 cold cases in which the police have a good suspect DNA profile that have never been matched, and all of those are going through the genetic genealogy process, adding provincial funding has been provided to offset the cost of the analysis.
He also credits the investigator who heads up the Cold case unit with its recent success.
“Steve Smith is in high demand after the (Christine) Jessop case. There’s a provincial task force involving crown attorneys, and police officers looking into the legalities of everything they’re doing. Steve is part of that,” Idsinga said. “He’s been contacted and travelled to cities across North America to help different services get off the ground and get their own processes started.”
A number of other cases Idsinga recalled involved random attacks where the victims and the suspect were strangers. In April, Richard Edwin, 39 was arrested with two counts of First Degree Murder after two unprovoked attacks. The first one happened on April 7 outside Sherbourne Subway station, when 21-year-old Kartik Vasudev, A Seneca College student from India was fatally shot.
Two days later, 35-year-old Elijah Mahepath was shot from behind as he was walking down Dundas St. E. At the time of his arrest, police say they found a cache of loaded guns.
Idsinga said the quick arrest was a relief.
“If we hadn’t been able to identify that fellow rather quickly and get him into custody along with the weapons that he had, that might have carried on and more victims would have been killed,” he said.
Idsinga also spoke about recent case of the unprovoked stabbing on a subway train that had just pulled into High Park station.
Vanessa Kurpiewska, 31, died from her injuries. A 37-year-old woman was also treated for non life-threatening injuries. Global News spoke to a witness who said he saw a Good Samaritan who was blocking the suspect from leaving the subway train, before police arrived.
“There was a Good Samaritan who intervened. Kudos to him because had he not intervened, we would have had at least another victim. The second victim would have been killed and then who knows what would have stopped the accused from carrying on,” Idsinga said, confirming what the witness said.
Neng Jia Jin, 52, has been charged with first degree murder and attempted murder.