Gun Crime: What?

There are many illegal handguns on the streets of east Scarborough.

We just don’t know how many.

“I can’t tell you about numbers of illegal guns,” said Detective Alex MacAulay, a detective with street crime at 43 Division. “If I knew, I would go get them.”

At 43 Division, they have confiscated guns ranging from rifles to semi-automatic handguns to AK-47s, according to superintendent Paul Gottschalk.

MacAulay said the firearms most often used in crimes were handguns and sawed off shotguns, in both cases because they can be concealed easily. The shotguns are also used to intimidate.

“That’s going to have an impact when you see something like that,” he said. “And I presume that’s what someone who’s going to rob a place is going for.”

That’s not to say that local store clerks stare down the barrel of shotguns all day.

“Crime in 42 Division is down,” said Staff Sgt. Jim Darbyshire, of northeast Scarborough’s police division. “Gun crime is no bigger a problem now than it has been in the past.”

MacAulay said knives were the preferred weapon for street criminals, not guns. And many mugging victims report to police that the mugger only told them they had a gun without ever showing it.

Crime rates are based on reported incidents, so the actual crime rate could be higher, but the gun crime rate is probably accurate.

“When a gun is fired, we tend to get a lot of reports due to the sound,” Darbyshire said. “And hospitals have to report any wound they see that looks like it’s a gunshot wound.”

Gun murders are down in east Scarborough this year, but since 2007 there have been 10 people lose their lives because of someone wielding a firearm.

Six have died locally of gunshot wounds in 2008 so far.

News releases from 42 and 43 divisions have told of some chilling incidents. One man, last January, was shot in the leg with a shotgun after refusing to give his attacker a cigarette.

Even though gun violence is often associated with youth, most young offenders use their hands or knives to commit violent crimes, MacAulay said. This year, 43 Division has had to deal with two different lockdowns at high schools because of reports of a gun.

Both times, the supposed gun turned out to be a replica.