Thu. May 26th, 2022

There were 11 homicides in Toronto in October – eight of them killed by gunfire – for a total of 74 homicides so far this year. That is already 13 more than the whole of 2020

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An increase in fatal shootings in Toronto stems from the “gun culture” in the United States, which triggers cross-border arms smuggling and a leap into mental crises during the pandemic, the city’s police chief said.

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Police Chief James Ramer convened a press conference on Friday to address growing public concern over an increase in murders last month in Toronto, many involving shootings and other shootings in public places.

“We live in a country with the largest unprotected border with a significant weapons culture in the United States, and that’s a very difficult problem that we have to solve. And honestly, that’s the biggest problem we have in this city – the amount of “Cross-border weapons,” Ramer said.

Ramer said internal data show that about 80 percent of the criminal weapons tracked by Toronto police came from the United States.

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“We do a lot of enforcement with our partners across the province to work on that type of investigation, to stop as much as we can. But it’s very, very difficult.”

There were 11 homicides in Toronto in October – eight of them killed by gunfire – for a total of 74 homicides so far this year. That is already 13 more than the whole of 2020. Of the 74, the shootings account for 40.

Police are not sure why the shot suddenly rises, but officers have ideas. Ramer said that along with the easy availability of smuggled weapons, a different pattern is emerging.

“One of the things we notice – and it may very well be a product of the pandemic – when we look back at 2019 compared to 2020 and 2021, we see an increase in homicides where we see a mental health component,” Ramer said. .

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He estimated that more than 30 percent of the killings in Toronto this year involved a mental health problem. In 2019, that was about 16 percent of the cases.

“These events are very difficult to address, difficult to predict, difficult to analyze.”

Ramer knows that people care about gun violence.

“I’m going out and the first thing they say to me is ‘jeez, boss, there’s been a lot of shootings,'” he said. “That’s what I’ve heard from the community.”

Ramer said that despite the increase in October, the total number of shootings in 2021 has dropped by 17 percent to date compared to last year.

Insp. Hank Idsinga, head of the homicide squad, said October was particularly busy for investigators.

“Despite some of these incidents occurring within a few days – even hours – in a row, and within the same or adjacent (police) departments, we have no evidence at present to suggest that they are connected to “But of course we are always open to that possibility,” said Idsinga.

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“There were quite a few of the shootings that we see where people involved in these shootings are affiliated with gangs; whether the murder in question is motivated by that affiliation or not is ultimately answered along the way during a trial.”

In January, the Centralized Shooting Response Teams (CSRTs) were made a permanent part of the Toronto police response to gun violence.

Toronto Police Chief James Ramer:
Toronto Police Chief James Ramer: “I’m going out and the first thing they say to me is ‘Yeah, boss, there’s been a lot of shootings.'” Photo by Ernest Doroszuk / Postmedia / File

Acting Deputy Chief of Police Myron Demkiw said eight CSRTs are now working on rotating shifts around the clock, participating in and investigating all reported firearms discharges in the city, whether there are injuries or not.

CSRTs emerged as a pilot program following an initiative against gun violence in 2019 called Project Community Space, which followed a summer of wild shootings.

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Officers are making progress in the investigation, Idsinga said.

He said the unit has a 73 percent clearance rate for this year’s homicide cases and expects it to rise by the end of the year. Some are considered cleared when arrest warrants are issued for suspects even though they have not been apprehended – such as four people currently wanted from shootings in October.

Idsinga said public assistance is needed to close cases.

“We very much appreciate the help we receive every day from members of the affected communities and we would not be able to have investigative success without them,” he said.

“We would ask anyone who has any information, no matter how small, about any of these outstanding cases, to sign up.”

• Email: ahumphreys@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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