Ford announces $25M in funding to combat gun violence in Toronto
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Thursday, August 9, 2018 11:00AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 9, 2018 10:02PM EDT
Premier Doug Ford says that his government will invest $25 million over the next four years in initiatives aimed at combating gun violence in the City of Toronto.
Ford made the announcement at Queen’s Park on Thursday morning, telling reporters that “too many people are living in fear” and that “too many of our police officers lack the best resources to do their job.”
He said that $18 million of the money will go directly to the Toronto Police Service and will pay for “additional digital, investigative and analytical resources” to combat gun violence and criminal gangs.”
The remaining $7.6 million, meanwhile, will go towards the cost of placing additional legal staff at each provincial courthouse in Toronto. Ford said that the money will help create “legal SWAT teams” led by a Crown attorney whose sole focus will be on “ensuring violent gun criminals are denied bail and remain behind bars.”
“We are here today with our cheque in our hand and we are calling on the municipal and federal governments to match this unprecedented funding,” Ford said. “We are calling on them to step up and do their part.”
In a statement released after Ford’s announcement, Mayor John Tory thanked the Progressive Conservative government for their commitment to pouring money into combating gun violence in the City of Toronto, something that he noted is a “urgent and pressing need.”
He said that he has already been in touch with city officials and has been informed that they have delegated authority from council to match the provincial funds that will be conveyed over the remainder of 2018.
He said that the decision on whether to match the provincial funding in future years will be up to the next city council that will be sworn in this December, though he said that it is something that he would personally support should he be re-elected.
“This is not a problem that has an easy answer, a simple answer or a one announcement answer. It is a complex problem that involves changes to the laws, resources to the police and investing in the community,” Tory told reporters at an event in North York later in the day. “I think partnerships are key. I may have my disagreements with the premier over the process he is using in going about changing the city council but I also understand that there are other files that I have to work with him on behalf of the people of Toronto and policing is one of those files.”
Police Chief will have final say
Tory told reporters that city officials were involved “in in every one” of the meetings between Ford and Police Chief Mark Saunders regarding how the money will be spent and “had a lot to say.”
Though it is not known what programs the money will directly support, Ford said that it will not be used to revive the controversial TAVIS program, which he had spoken out in support of in the past.
That program sent a specialized group of officers into high-crime communities but was heavily criticized for having a negative impact on the relationship between police and some neighbourhoods.
“No, we aren’t going to have TAVIS. We are going to focus on guns and gangs and we have all the faith in the world in the chief and the police association needs their input too,” Ford said. “We aren’t experts. The experts are the police. We are going to hand over the money and they are going to tell us where the money should go.”
Ford said that while he “is from the old school” and personally supports “boots on the ground” as a crimes reduction tool, he conceded that it is “not up to the premier to decide” how to tackle gun violence.
Speaking with CP24 on Thursday, Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack called the funding “a step in the right direction.”
“We still have some concerns about our understaffing and resources issues we are having in the city of Toronto but we are encouraged that the premier is taking a step in the right direction,” he said.
McCormack said that while his union is continuing to have conversations with the city about ongoing efforts to hire 200 additional officers, he is encouraged by the provincial commitment.
He said that the deployment of up to 200 additional officers during the nighttime and early-morning hours this summer has coincided with a “severe decrease in the amount of shootings,” though he said it is not a sustainable program because of its reliance on overtime.
It is unclear whether the provincial funding could be used to extend that program, which was intended to be a temporary measure paid for with $3 million in funding from the city.
In a statement, Police Chief Mark Saunders said that the funding will allow the TPS to be “surgical with apprehending those who use guns.”
"Part of our strategy to address gun violence in the city includes partnering with the provincial government for a collaborative and meaningful response," he said. "With today's announcement, Premier Ford and his government have listened to our concerns and have invested in the Toronto Police Service, giving us the ability to be surgical with apprehending those who use guns and ensuring the courts have the resources they need to deal with violent criminals.”