Toronto’s gang turf-wars keeping police busy this summer

Around 100 street gangs have been identified in the city of Toronto, according to Joe Matthews, an inspector with the Toronto’s police Integrated Gun And Gang Task Force.
Around 100 street gangs have been identified in the city of Toronto, according to Joe Matthews, an inspector with the Toronto’s police Integrated Gun And Gang Task Force.

Around 100 street gangs have been identified in the city of Toronto, according to Joe Matthews, an inspector with the Toronto police’s Integrated Gun And Gang Task Force.

Matthews told CTV News that the spike in “brazen daytime shootings” around Toronto coincides with the rise of guns which are modified, turning semi-automatic guns—which only fire a bullet each time the trigger is pulled—to automatic weapons, which keeps firing until the trigger is released.

“It’s definitely a street gang turf war that’s going on. There’s a lot more brazenness in the gangster with the daytime shootings which we traditionally hadn’t seen,” Matthews said.

Matthews went on to say that of the 274 shootings in Toronto this year alone, that most are targeted and gang-related.

“It’s all about money, it’s all about power, and it traditionally has been. It’s the brazenness now that’s come in the gangster and exactly the psychology why it’s happened I’m not quite certain of.”

A summer of seizure

It’s been a busy summer for Toronto. Since July 1, the police force has already seized 56 guns that have been used in crimes. An estimated three-quarters flood from across our southern border.

In Canada, more than half of firearm-related violent crimes involved handguns, and the city of Toronto does not stray from this trend. Semi-automatic pistols are the most common type of gun seized, though Matthews points out an alarming rise in modified weapons.

“We are seeing a little bit of an increase of the different types of devices that are put on firearms so there is that automatic rapid-fire that will happen,” he said. “And overcapacity magazines, we’re seeing them all the time as well.”

The Integrated Gun and Gang Task Force is carrying the workload in Police Chief Mark Saunder’s three-month program to curb gun violence in Toronto.

Handgun ban has support from Mayor Tory

That three-month program came following a particularly bloody weekend in Toronto which saw 17 people shot over the Civic Holiday weekend, seven of which occurred at a nightclub in North York.

At that time, Toronto Mayor John Tory expressed clear interest in a handgun ban, stating that it would help the city in its war against gun violence within Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area.

“The gun violence we have seen in recent days in our city is absolutely unacceptable … I remain firmly of the belief that a handgun ban will help us address the gun violence we are experiencing in our city and the surrounding region,” he wrote.

“This was always put forward as a part of the answer to gun violence together with changes to other laws affecting things like bail, additional support for police, and the paramount need for all three governments to invest together in kids, families and neighbourhoods.”

Police Chief Saunders did not express if he agreed with a gun ban, though he stated that “anything that does remove a handgun is a good day for the city.”

“Anything that does remove a handgun is a good day for the city. There is no real silver bullet. There’s so many aspects of why people are doing it, but at the end of the day people are getting shot and I’ve got concerns about that and its immediacy.”

Crime in Toronto has been on the rise. According to Toronto police statistics, there have been 274 shooting instances this year.