Mayor John Tory has announced a new city initiative to send crisis-response and counselling teams to communities plagued by gun violence, while two other programs aimed at stopping vulnerable people from falling into a life of crime are being expanded.
The renewed effort to thwart shootings comes after a spike in gun-related deaths that have more than doubled from this time last year.
A community-housing program will send crisis response teams and counsellors to areas in the aftermath of gun violence “to heal those neighbourhoods and restore a greater sense of calm,” Tory told reporters Thursday.
Meanwhile, a provincial initiative called FOCUS aimed at identifying those are risk of a life of crime then deterring them with mental health, youth workers, police and other services will be expanded from Rexdale to Jane-Finch and other neighbourhoods.
A pilot program in the city’s west end that redirects people aged 12 to 18 who are charged with a criminal offence to community programs instead of a detention centre will also be enlarged, Tory said.
He said the three initiatives will cost roughly $800,000 total, including provincial funds, but won’t be “short-term commitments.”
“I think we’re determined to try to make sure they stand the test of time” if they work, Tory said.
Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said cross-border gun smuggling is taken “very seriously” by border officials and the RCMP, with the Canada Border Services Agency seizing 7,400 prohibited weapons and firearms last year.
The news conference came after Goodale, Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, Tory, Police Chief Mark Saunders and others met to discuss gun violence.
Last week, Tory announced the city is receiving an additional $600,000 from the federal government to boost the Canada Summer Jobs program and create opportunities for troubled youth.