After the “summer of the gun” in 2005, the number of gun-related incidents has only increased in Toronto, including east Scarborough, a local police officer says.
According to unofficial reports from Toronto Police Services, shootings in the city have increased by 47.5 per cent this year. In 2007, there were 204 shootings in Toronto and so far this year, there have been 301. That is also up from 2006, when there were 263.
“Since 2005, the year of the gun, there has been a heavier focus on the gun situation,” Const. Gary Gomez of 42 Division said. “There has been a steady rise in violence in our society, not only in Scarborough, but in Toronto as a whole.”
And the statistics do not present the full picture as numbers on other crimes involving guns over the past few years, such as robberies, were not immediately available.
Another disturbing trend is the increase of gun violence specifically among youth.
Jessica Weiser, the quality assurance and resource specialist with East Metro Youth Services, says this rise in gun crime among young people began about a decade ago.
“Violence in general, and gun violence, has been rising since the 1990s. Statistics tell us this,” Weiser said. “The past summer has been particularly traumatic, especially for the youth at our centre.”
But, not everyone feels that gun violence is getting worse in east Scarborough.
Though he’s seen a rise in gun situations since moving to east Scarborough 20 years ago, resident Kenneth Globe feels gun-related incidents have gone down recently.
“I’ve heard about plenty of gun violence instances in the area. When I moved here, this wasn’t the case,” said Globe, who is now retired. “In the last year, I think gun violence decreased in West Hill.”
Cheryl Gillis, a supervisor for the Scarborough division of Community Recreation, says her area hasn’t had many gun-related situations. She adds this is thanks to the promotion of a strong community for youth and adults living around Kingston and Galloway roads.
“Violence can happen anywhere,” Gillis said. “The key component is youth having opportunities to help them from getting involved with gangs and violence.”
While he admits there’s more gun violence in Scarborough compared to 30 years ago, city councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker says Scarborough is one of the safest places to live. He says crime in Ward 38 is now quite low and hasn’t been a big problem in the past.
“These days, gun violence in Scarborough is extremely rare,” said De Baeremaeker, who has lived in Scarborough for 46 years. “It’s a hype or label that people put on Scarborough, but that’s false.”
However, he agrees gun violence among youth is a problem.
“There are more guns today, but young people have a different attitude,” De Baeremaeker said. “They have access to the Internet.”
“Youth today are smarter and have an easier time getting a hold of guns.”
– with files from Brooke Reid and Annesha Hutchinson