Toronto police chief unveils plan to curb gun violence amid spike in shootings

Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders on Wednesday detailed his plan to curb gun violence in the city amid a recent spike in shootings, saying that new government funding will be used to target street gangs.

The 11-week strategy, dubbed “Project Community Space,” will begin on Thursday, Saunders told reporters at a morning news conference from the Toronto Police Service’s downtown headquarters.

Saunders declined to say how many officers will be involved, but said the effort will be “intelligence-led” and will include officers under the command of the Integrated Gun and Gang Task Force.

CBC Toronto reported Tuesday that the plan will include reassigning 45 major crimes personnel from the city’s 17 divisions to the frontline force, commonly called the guns and gangs unit.

The additional officers will remain with the task force until Thanksgiving, a police source said.

On Monday, all three levels of government announced they would provide Toronto police with a combined $4.5 million to be used specifically to combat gun violence. A portion of those funds will be put toward the expansion of the guns and gangs unit.

Saunders said the plan will include monitoring of bail compliance, police involvement in community programs and an increased presence and visibility of officers in areas associated with street gangs and gun violence.

He offered few specific details about the strategy.

“I just don’t want to give up a lot of the playbook,” he told reporters.

Saunders has previously said a recent spate of shootings were mostly gang-related, including 14 separate shootings over a violent Simcoe Day long weekend that left more than a dozen people with gunshot injuries.

Toronto is currently on pace to record its highest number of shootings in a single year since 2004. The city has seen 267 shootings this year — 19 more than this same point in 2018, which saw a total of 428 shootings.

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