What's with chief's take on gun violence?

TORONTO - From the beginning of the news conference, it did kind of feel like he was putting us on.


Two days after the shocking murder of a pregnant woman whose baby is on life support after an emergency C-section — at a time when the city has almost double the number of homicides from a year ago — Chief Mark Saunders was insisting Toronto is “the safest city in North America” and the media is too focused on “doom and gloom?”

This coming after Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack says it’s time people “wake up” and realize the murderous violence is out of control.

And as the Tornoto Sun’s Chris Doucette reports, some officers feel they are on a “rudderless ship.”

Could there be a method to the chief’s perceived madness?

Policing sources say yes — explaining with an investigator like Saunders, what you see in the right hand does not necessarily mean you see what is on the left.

“He keeps his cards close to his vest. This is how this chief is, he has seen everything and he compartmentalizes things with a goal to achieve results,” says a police source close to him.

The old homicide detective diversion trick?

OK. But still, that, was one unusual news conference.

“When it comes to the communities, the media is never there until they see chalked outline bodies,” Saunders complained. “So why not go in there and look at some of the positive role models and tell those stories more instead of everyone just jumping on the bandwagon whenever there’s something that’s critical?”

Aren’t the gangsters the problem?

“The safest city in North America has a gun violence problem,” says McCormack. “Compared to a year ago, shootings have increased 61%. Shooting deaths have increased 217%. And typically gun violence only gets worse in the summer.”

In Toronto, we have already had 19 shooting homicides out of this year’s total of 29 killings. In 2016, there have been 135 shooting occurrences which is 51 more than this time in 2015 and 75 more than in 2014.

Saunders said while Toronto has had “29 murders so far this year, last year 15 at this time. In 2014, we were at 20; in 2013, we were at 22 so the numbers are not that far off.”

Still, when Global TV reporter Caryn Lieberman asked if he is worried 2016 is heading toward Year of the Gun-type numbers, Saunders flat out said “no,” insisting his force is doing things to keep the city safe.

Is there more going on behind the curtain? Should we give him the benefit of the doubt?

“The chief thinks more like a homicide detective and does not feel a need to sensationalize the numbers that he knows are serious,” the source close to him said. “He is angry about Candice Bobb’s murder, worried about her surviving baby and is very upset about all the senseless violence, but the homicide detective part of him is what was kicking in. He just doesn’t believe in letting the killers or gangs see emotion ... His focus is on making arrests.”

If this is indeed a razzle-dazzle plan, hopefully it works, since the old homicide guy has 13 murderers from 2016 alone who are currently on the loose.

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