Police to double number of CCTV cameras in Toronto amid spike in shootings

The province committed $3 million on Friday to help Toronto police more than double the number of closed-circuit television cameras in the city in an effort to deter gun violence amid a recent spike in gang-related shootings.

The 40 new cameras will be installed over a three-year period, bringing the total number of CCTV cameras operating in Toronto from 34 to 74.

Premier Doug Ford made the announcement at a morning news conference with Toronto Mayor John Tory. 

Tory said the cameras will help ensure police have the resources they need to keep the city safe and hold criminals responsible.

"Toronto is a great city, but we must continue to do more and more to protect our streets, to protect the very neighbourhoods that sometimes end up under siege," Tory said. 

"While the number of homicides has been reduced this year, the level of gun violence continues to be unacceptable."

Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders, who also attended the news conference, declined to specify where the new cameras will be installed, but said their placement will be "intelligence led."

"We recognize that 99.9 per cent of our communities are law abiding people that are scared because of the gun activities that are happening," Saunders told reporters.

He said that at a number of recent town halls with communities most affected by gun violence, "more and more requests are for cameras."

Saunders added that the existing CCTV network has had a "tremendous impact" on the force's ability to pursue suspects following criminal incidents. When asked how more cameras would deter potential violence, Saunders said that improvements in technology have made them an increasingly relevant crime-fighting tool.

"Ten years ago, having cameras at night meant nothing. Today, because of the quality, because of the resolution, it works 24 hours, seven days a week," Saunders said.

The new funding comes during the second Project Community Space, an 11-week, anti-gun violence strategy by police that includes beefing up the force's Integrated Gun and Gang Task Force with 45 experienced major crimes officers from the city's 17 divisions.

CBC

The front-line unit will be focused on a number of areas with a high concentration of shootings, though Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders has declined to be more specific about tactics.

Project Community Space is being funded in part with a combined $4.5-million commitment from all three levels of government made earlier this month.

While there have been fewer homicides so far this year than at the some point in 2018, Toronto is currently on pace for a record number of shootings. There have been 274 shootings with 412 victims in the city as of August 19, according to police data.

Tory has also been calling on Ottawa to implement a ban on handguns, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has so far only said the federal government will consider additional gun control measures and voters will have to wait for the Liberals' election platform for details.

Tory added Friday that tackling the root causes of gun and gang violence is also important, and he raised the issue last week with Trudeau.

"I am not satisfied that Toronto is receiving all the help that it needs as Canada's largest city, by way of investing in neighbourhoods and young people to keep gang activity away," he said.