An increased number of shootings got most of the media attention in Toronto last year, but those figures don’t tell the whole story.
Crime in Toronto reached both highs and lows in 2019. The city endured more shootings and violence in 2019 than in recent years, but the number of deaths dropped significantly, according to end-of-year data from Toronto Police. And other crimes not gun-related varied widely.
The city did have a record 492 shootings in 2019, up by 15 per cent over 2018. Even more alarming may be the record 771 shooting victims, about 26 per cent more than the previous year’s total, which had itself been a record.
But while the number of people shot was high, only 44 of them are known to have died from their injuries. This was down from the previous year’s high of 51 known shooting deaths.
The police area with the lowest number of shootings last year was 52 Division with nine incidences and 17 victims. This division covers southern Central Toronto communities west of Yonge Street, including University, Harbord and Kensington Market, as well as many downtown streets.
Second-lowest was the broader 53 Division, covering Central Toronto, North Toronto and Leaside communities north of Bloor Street, as well as part of the Forest Hill area. Only 13 shooting incidents resulted in 29 victims.
Also close to the low end of the spectrum last year were 54 and 55 Divisions with respectively 24 and 17 shootings. However, these two division have been merged into one division covering the east-end communities of East York, Riverdale, Leslieville and Beaches. The combined totals for the new 55 Division would place it at the higher end of the spectrum, though still lower than three northwest Toronto divisions.
Homicides in general were also down in 2019. The peak of 96 homicides was recorded in 2018 but last year the figure dropped to 78.
Perhaps of greater interest to local residents may be the distribution of murders across Toronto communities.
The police maps shows a preponderance of incidents in the western suburbs of Toronto, as well as in the Central and downtown areas. The midtown area has several locations marked, while the middle areas of North York, north of Lawrence Avenue, appear to be free of murders, as is most of the Don Valley West area.
Moving east of the Don Valley, only two murders are reported to have taken place in 54/55 Divisions, both in East York, leaving Riverdale, Leslieville and the Beaches free of homicides in 2019.
Incidents pick up again crossing over Victoria Park Avenue into the Scarborough and western North York areas.
Other police data, however, shows the Riverdale-East York area experienced a significant number of assaults with 227 cases, compared to only 31 assaults in North Toronto last year, 36 cases in the Don Valley area, and just two in Forest Hill.
According to Police Const. Chris Neil, interviewed at an East York crime scene in the fall, the majority of the violence is gang-related. ”Following the August long weekend we responded to 14 separate shootings over the course of three days, and they were mostly gang-related incidences.”
The most common crime in the Beaches-Leslieville area is break-and-enters with 226 last year.
The areas of Beaches, Leslieville and East York will see additional officers due to the rise of break and enters this past year, said Toronto police chief Mark Saunders.
In August he announced a $4.5-million project funded by all three levels of government to provide 200 more officers for areas at high risk of all types of crimes from assault to gun violence.
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