Toronto breaks annual homicide record, on pace to exceed 100 in 2018
With more than one month remaining, 2018 is already the deadliest year on record in Canada’s largest city.
A shooting that took place at a community housing complex in Toronto Sunday is being investigated as the city’s 90th homicide of the year. That breaks a record previously set in 1991, when police investigated 89 homicides. If the current pace continues, the city will finish the year with 102 homicide cases.
Witnesses told CTV Toronto they heard gunshots at the east-end apartment complexlate Sunday afternoon. A man was found dead in a stairwell.
“This is getting bad. You can’t go out of your doorway. You can’t go down the stairs,” one woman said.
Police officers were seen leading a man out of the building in handcuffs later in the day, but it was not clear whether the man was in custody in connection with the shooting.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said Sunday that the record number of homicides “is not something anyone, including me, can accept.” In a statement, he said there was no “magic answer” to the gun violence happening in the city and that he hoped other governments would help curb the number of incidents.
“We are working well with the Ontario Government to give our police more support and toughen up bail practices,” he said.
“And we are working well with the Government of Canada to toughen up our gun laws and to invest in kids and families.”
This year’s homicide number is significantly higher than the 53 homicides the city saw in 2017, and the 63 homicides experienced in 2016.
Local authorities have blamed the increase on gang activity. The Ontario government announced this summer that it would provide $25 million over four years for new gang-fighting resources in the city’s police service and court system.
“When we look at who is causing the violence, especially the gunplay, it is street gangs,” Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders told CP24 on Monday.
Chris Lewis, CTV’s public safety analyst and a former commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, said “very few” murders in Toronto are not gang-related in some way. He said government efforts to stem the flow of illegal gun importations from the U.S. would make a difference to public safety.
“We live next to a country with a huge, unprotected border, largely, that has more guns than people, hardly any gun laws, and that’s where the majority of the guns are coming from,” he told CTV’s Your Morning.
According to police statistics, guns have been responsible for slightly more than half of Toronto’s homicides this year.
Lewis described homicides as an unfortunate reality of life in a big city. He pointed to murder rates south of the border as evidence that Toronto’s gun violence issues are relatively minor.
“Ninety murders is scary, and I get that – but comparatively, to cities that we would go to for a weekend like West Palm Beach, Florida, our murders are infinitesimal,” he said.
“In a place like West Palm Beach, the murder rate is like nine times what it is in Toronto. Would we go to West Palm Beach tomorrow? Would we go to Miami, where the murder rate’s like 20 times that? Yes we would.”
There have been 475 homicides reported thus far this year in Chicago, which has a similar population to Toronto. Montreal, Canada’s second-largest city, has recorded 26.
While 2018 has the highest number of homicides on record in Toronto, it is not the year with the city’s highest homicide rate. In 1991, there were 3.8 homicides for every 100,000 Toronto residents. If Toronto continues on its current pace, it will finish the year with approximately 3.5 homicides for every 100,000 Toronto residents.
The 2018 figure was also boosted by the 10 deaths that occurred April 23, when a van struck dozens of pedestrians on Yonge Street. Alex Minassian, 25, has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder and will likely face a trial in 2019 or 2020.
Nearly one-third of this year’s homicide investigations in Toronto have not been solved.
With a report from CTV Toronto’s Miranda Anthistle and files from CP24