Chief Mark Saunders says 35 per cent of the more than 500 charges laid in the first six weeks of ‘Project Community Space’ were related to firearms.

On Monday morning, Saunders provided an update on the11-week project, which was launched in August after the police service received $4.5-million from all three levels of government to combat gun violence and gang activity.

“Over the six weeks, shooting events have decreased 30 per cent compared to the six weeks prior to the start of this project,” Saunders said.

“The project allows for increased presence and visibility in patrol cars and on foot and in areas where street gangs are prevalent.”

While the majority of charges laid so far are firearm-related, Saunders said 11 per cent of charges were for violent offences, including assault, robbery, and sexual offences.

“These results speak to this project being intelligence-led in that officers are in key areas and are able to get to scenes quickly,” Saunders said Monday.

Twelve people free on bail for firearm-related offences were re-arrested over the past six week as a result of the additional resources, he added.

A “bail enforcement surge” was also undertaken, Saunders said, resulting in officers checking up on 876 individuals who are currently out on bail.

“A lot of the criminals that know that we are out there are staying home,” he said, adding that members of the community have reported feeling safer as a result of the additional officers in their communities.

Saunders noted that 38 referrals were made to community agencies, including 17 referrals that were made to a gang exit program.

The project was launched in response to a violent August long weekend where more than a dozen people were shot.

It is scheduled to wrap up on Oct. 31.

More firearms in the streets

Saunders told CP24 during 'The Chief' that more officers are arresting more people with firearms on them specifically handguns.

He said 83 per cent of handguns are coming from the United States while 17 per cent are acquired domestically.

"Five, six years ago, you saw it 50-50 but now it's changed," Saunders said.

He said the rise of handguns in the country is due to monetary reasons.

"If you go to a gun auction or gun stores or the flea market type of sales in a state like Ohio, you can buy a Glock for $300-$400. And you come back here, it's $4,000 right away."

Saunders said criminal groups would be interested in selling and distributing guns with the magnitude of profit that can be made. He said part of stopping these groups is understanding how they continue to enhance their skills and abilities.

He said Toronto police have established a strong partnership with the Canadian Border Services Agency, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police and some law enforcements in the United States.

"We make sure that in order to get that right when it to the firearms being brought into the city that we have a network of agencie and entities that we talk collectively on a regular basis to look at what the trends are, what the new patterns are, and then that way we can be proactive," Saunders said.