Some thoughts on guns and gangs.

About 75% of shootings in Toronto are gang related. For most Weston Web readers that means little – we’re ok because we most of us don’t live in a gang neighbourhood. For those living in public housing, the fear is real. Many (especially black and male) young people are unable to travel to other neighbourhoods for fear of the consequences of straying into gang territory.

The Mayor and Police Chief can often be found behind a podium expressing dismay at a shooting event and lamenting that while everything is being done, there are no easy answers. At the same time, the head of the police union tells the public that there is an easy answer: more cops; while others want a return to provincially funded programs such as TAVIS.

From the Toronto Star.

This might be wrong on all counts except for the number of cops.  Manchester in the U.K has a similar population to ours and has over a thousand more officers and hundreds more support staff. Manchester’s murder rate (a reliable crime indicator) is 2.44 per 100,000 people compared to 3.11 in Toronto. Incidentally, Chicago – a similar sized city to Toronto and Manchester had a murder rate of 23.8 in 2018.

We’ve known for a while what needs to be done but it’s not easy. Solving this multi-faceted  problem is hard, requires brave and intelligent public officials, doesn’t work overnight and it’s expensive in the short term.

Here’s what we know about gangs.

A gang can provide:

  • a surrogate family.
  • perceived safety and protection.
  • a path to money, success and respect.
  • an outlet for frustration and anger.
  • membership in a community.

Successfully combatting the lure of a gang requires more attractive alternatives and young people need to acquire the education and skills that will allow them to choose a more mainstream lifestyle.

More traditional policing is not the only answer. It’s the difference between treating the symptoms of an illness or actually getting at the cause.

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders recently announced a $4.5 million, 11-week program aimed at reducing gun violence. Presumably after 11 weeks, the matter will be taken care of and we can all go back to sleep. In fairness, Chief Saunders is in a tough spot. Every politician is expecting him to do something but without permanent funding, he’s stuck with applying band-aids for short periods of time. As an aside; anyone who can come in to work during home dialysis and after a kidney transplant has my respect.

Clearly we’re at another crisis point and not enough is being done. The Ford government is well on its way to guaranteeing that gang violence will continue. Cuts to the minimum wage and vital services like education, health, housing and school repairs will cause the most damage in poorer neighbourhoods which is where gangs thrive.

From The Hamilton Spectator.

Yes, the Ford government truly knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Here’s an example – instead of allowing the minimum wage to rise from $14 to $15, Ford froze the wage at $14 and promised that minimum wage earners would get a (pitiful) tax break. In effect, the Ford government now subsidizes companies who pay low wages (thus increasing the deficit) yet complains that the government spends too much. Deep thinkers at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce predicted that a minimum wage rise from $11.60 to $14 would ramp up unemployment, the cost of living and would lower profits. In fact inflation didn’t budge, unemployment went down while tax revenues and profits were up. It’s counter intuitive but ‘evidence’ apparently doesn’t fit the C of C / Tory dogma. And in the meantime, a living wage is further out of reach, putting more people at risk of choosing a life of crime.

Is the solution to crime putting more people in jail? Yes for violent criminals as their incarceration protects society. Putting people in jail is expensive and surprisingly it does little to discourage crime. For example, the U.S. locks up more of its population than anywhere else on earth yet the murder rate is 5.3 per 100,000 compared to Canada’s 1.8 (2017 figures).  By all means put hardened criminals in jail and reject bail for those accused of a violent crime; however, in the long run, diverting people into better lifestyles benefits society as a whole – and it’s a lot cheaper than jail.

Yes; answers to gang violence take intelligence, political courage and money. These commodities are sadly lacking when it comes to tackling the problem. The public also needs to support the police; get involved and stop protecting criminals.

From The Denver Post.
What the research says we need to do:
  1. Educate parents on the signs of children’s gang involvement.
  2. Disempower gangs through infiltration, police presence and education to make membership in a gang less appealing.
  3. Increase penalties for smuggling and possession of unlicensed / unregistered guns.
  4. Provide more community facilities so that young people can gather safely.
  5. Publicize the 222 TIPS and rewards program.
  6. Increase the minimum wage to liveable levels and keep it tied to inflation.
  7. Provide incentives for top teachers and administrators to work in challenging schools.
  8. Deny public housing / housing subsidies to known gang members. Evict tenants who accommodate known gang members.
  9. Similar ideas from Mark Towhey here.

Somehow, the great thinkers south of the border have convinced themselves (and gullible others) that the answer to gun crime is more guns. Thanks to a bizarre misinterpretation of the Second Amendment of the U.S. constitution, the right to bear arms is enshrined. Naturally, when our neighbour is overflowing with firearms, many make their way here. Handguns being relatively easy to hide are smuggled most often. We also have legitimate collectors and target shooters whose collections are burgled adding to our gun problem.

There has been much talk of a handgun ban in Toronto. Without border guards at the entrances to the city, this is a non-starter. The federal government needs to have the courage to do this nation-wide. There are few compelling reasons for private citizens to own a gun. In the U.S. the most likely victim of a gun in a house is the owner or a family member. There’s no reason to believe that Canada is any different.

Pro Tip: if you know someone with a gun, you can call 222 TIPS and get rewarded if your tip results in a gun being confiscated ($500) or a crime being solved ($50 – $2000). There is absolute confidentiality – even to the point of the (cash) payment.

3 thoughts on “Some thoughts on guns and gangs.”

  1. What a wealth of ideas and careful analysis you’ve given us. This is valuable and I will be rereading this often as we limp along with bandaids and inhuman decisions by the Ford government.

    Education and resources are so crucial for everyone, and children and youth in poverty need to be supported to escape the option of gang life = family and community.

    Thanks for your work.

    1. how are the gangs Fords fault???? I don’t care for Ford but how are the gangs his fault???

  2. All good and valid points, Roy.
    (And also, from that link to the late Rob Ford’s manager, Mark Towhey.)

    Now, what to do with the problem of young men being raised in “single” parent homes where clearly this should ideally be a “two parent” job?

    Or at least that’s how it looks – whenever you see young families in tow around here by maternal figures, and only maternal figures – with not one adult male in sight.

    What’s up with that?

    My most recent example of this (apart from anywhere near Main Street, Weston) was a few nights back at Elm Park – seeing a few maternal types in the parkette supervising many girls & boys without a single male “father figure” figure joining them during what should be important bonding & play time.

    Where do all these father figures go – instead of to the park with their kids?
    (Oh wait, that’s a “woman’s job”, right fellas?)

    What do you do with this problem – when young men could use a good & decent male role model instead of “hip hop gangsters & pirates” who somehow “romantically” role model & style for the impressionable young guys out there who seemingly have no other options on the horizon- like a proper formal education and then some decent job opportunities, after during & after studies?

    What do we do with that “elephant in the room”?

    Wouldn’t it be grand if at other important times (like now, with the growth of gang violence) we were to hear from those “role models” like “Black Lives Matter”? It would be really something if they stepped up to vocally to wag fingers at this problem.

    But, for whatever reason they’re strangely silent.

    And, it’s clear to see that they don’t all pull together either – with many other gender and cultural issues & concerns amongst them.

    Tribal warfare.

    If and when that changes – improving the “little things” in life from our all earliest educators – that’s when we’ll have a decent chance to move forward, positively.

    But, it starts at home.

    Teach your children well, or at least better.
    (It’s always been and will always be the story.)

    Thanks for the long list, Roy.
    All important to consider with this “brain storming” session.

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