Toronto needs to 'wake up' to gun violence: McCormack

TORONTO - It’s not like there haven’t been people warning that Toronto was headed towards a carnage crisis.

Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack certainly has.

For quite a while, actually.

“We are very concerned with the increase in shootings and violent crime we have seen this year,” McCormack told me.

That was not Monday after the latest disgusting shooting of a pregnant woman.

This was last summer — even before the Muzik nightclub massacre that killed Ariela Navarro-Fenoy and Duvel Hibbert.

“Shootings are way up and we are not even halfway through the summer,” warned McCormack.

Turns out that may have been in spring training. This year is even more alarming.

Already we have had 19 shooting homicides out of a total of 29. At this time last year, we had 84 shooting occurrences, which was 24 more than the same time frame in 2014.

In 2016, there have been 135 shooting occurrences — 51 more than before the May long weekend in 2015 and 75 more than in 2014.

Safe city?

Not for everybody. Not everywhere.

Needless to say, McCormack has a credibility on the issue while those who have tried to downplay the numbers and spin them don’t.

“People need to wake up,” he said. “Veteran police leaders like Mike Earl and Ron Taverner have been very open about there being so many guns on the street. This problem is real.”

The TPA has spoken up once again, as well — this time in full page advertisements in both Tuesday’s Toronto Sun and National Post.

“Shouldn’t Public Safety be a Public Matter?” asks the ad, billed as an “Open Letter to the Residents of Toronto from the Toronto Police Association.”

McCormack said in his and his board’s view, “we can’t sit back and let things deteriorate without trying to do something.”

The ad states: “Public safety is not an issue that can be decided behind closed doors. Public safety must become a public matter. The time for action is now.”

McCormack is so right. And the police are not the problem but the most important player in dealing with the crisis. They are the good guys. The bad guys are the gunmen.

And they are not afraid.

There are dozens of things that can be done right now to prevent 2016 from becoming the highest year of homicides. These things need to be done, starting today. No more excuses.

Allow police to be police, for a start. No more yelling racism when they ask somebody a question. A proper information line and witness protection program is needed to nail the intimidating criminals.

We need more focus on families and breaking the cycle of renting and poverty.

We need to lock up as many gangsters as possible right now on everything from warrants to bail condition violations, as well as conduct gun sweeps and a massive arrest project.

We need to aggressively stop the flow of guns from across the border and no one on bail should be permitted in public housing.

McCormack has, in the past, talked about tools being taken away like street checks as well budget cuts that have curbed staffing levels. He has warned about the fallout that comes from viewing his officers’ attempts to engage the public through a race lens.

But mostly, he’s worried about all the innocent people being killed. Maybe people are ready to start to listen.

“We are concerned about the growing disconnect between the police and the community,” he said. “This disconnect comes at a time when the Toronto Police Service is facing unprecedented challenges, including proposed budget cuts and ‘transformative change’ in the delivery of police services.”

The open letter states “while politicians and some community groups are focused on reducing the cost of policing, there has been a significant increase in violent crime. The safest city in North America has a gun violence problem.”

The numbers don’t lie.

“Compared to a year ago, shootings have increased 61%. Shooting deaths have increased 217%. And typically gun violence only gets worse in the summer.”

Who knows how many will die or be hurt this year. But McCormack is urging the powers that be to quickly address the concerns and offered an olive branch on the issue of carding.

“For the record, let us say this — we accept that carding, or what we call street checks — is over,” McCormack said in the letter. “It is time to move forward and find a meaningful way to engage proactively with the community. There has never been a more critical time for the police, the province, our civic leaders and the residents of Toronto to collectively take a firm stand against violent crime.”

It’s too late for Candice Rochelle Bobb but maybe not for the next person who may not be later this year.

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