Toronto’s police chief says the increased “brazenness” of gun violence was one of the more disturbing trends he observed in 2016.

Mark Saunders made the comment to CP24 during a year-end interview on Wednesday morning.

The comment comes following a particularly violent year on Toronto streets.

To date, there have been 68 homicides, which is the highest total since 2008.

There have also been a number of high-profile shootings which have shocked the city, including one that resulted in the death of a 35-year-old pregnant woman in Rexdale in May and another that claimed the life of a 61-year-old grandmother in Riverdale in August. Police have said that the victims in both of those shootings were innocent bystanders.

“The brazenness of the gunplay was a little more magnified than I have usually seen,” Saunders said on Wednesday. “Having said that I would note that the men and the women are still working very hard out in the streets in case people don’t think so. We have seized over 900 firearms to date, which is a high number when you look at the amount of work we are doing. Still, there are a lot of things we need to do to keep the city safe.”

Homicide spike being observed across N. America

Of the 68 homicides so far in 2016, 40 of them have been shootings, which represents a 50 per cent increase from 2015.

There have also been a total of 151 shootings resulting in injuries so far in 2016, which is a 15 per cent increase from 2015.

Speaking with CP24 inside his office at police headquarters, Saunders admitted that the rise in gun violence is concerning but he noted that it is a trend that is being observed “right across North America.”

“Sixty eight (homicides) in the City of Toronto is high but for 2.8 million people, whether you like to hear it or not, this still is the safest city in North America,” he said.

While Toronto’s homicide rate per capita is lower than most American cities, it should be noted that there have only been 23 homicides in Montreal (poulation 1.65 million) so far in 2016, which would give Canada’s second largest city a significantly lower per-capita homicide rate than Toronto (population 2.79 million).