A day after two 15-year-old boys were seriously wounded in a shooting, Mayor John Tory says the gun violence that is continuing to grip Toronto is of major concern — and at least one youth worker is warning the pandemic could fuel more bloodshed.
“I am deeply concerned about the continuing prevalence of gun violence in the city and those who have been victimized by it,” Tory told reporters at a city hall news conference on Wednesday.
Tory said he met with Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders on Tuesday to discuss the problem. Both officials talked about measures in place to prevent further shooting deaths and injuries. He said they discussed what can be done.
“I will be working with him to make sure that we have the resources that we need to have plans in place, as I believe we do now, but to enhance those plans to make sure we can fight this violence as best we can, regardless of the weather and regardless of what’s going on with the pandemic,” Tory said.
“The violence is a problem in and of itself.”
The city is working on new community programs to minimize gun violence, the mayor added.
Tory said gun violence is a serious problem in part because of the “upset” it brings to neighbourhoods.
The meeting between Tory and Saunders came before three shootings in the city before midnight on Tuesday night.
Toronto police said the shooting that left the boys wounded may have been a drive-by. It happened close to the intersection of Grandravine Drive and Driftwood Avenue, near Jane Street and Finch Avenue West, at about 10:45 p.m.
Const. Laura Brabant, spokesperson for the Toronto police, said on Wednesday that both boys suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
When police arrived, they found the first 15-year-old boy suffering from at least one gunshot wound. He was taken to hospital. Police continued to investigate and found the second teen also suffering from at least one gunshot wound. He was taken to hospital as well.
On Tuesday night, Insp. Paul Rinkoff police said the shooters may have been in a vehicle and the shooting was outside in an open area in front of a home.
Police have not released a description of the shooters and have not determined a motive. Officers canvassed the area for witnesses and surveillance camera video.
Shell casings could be seen strewn throughout the street for nearly a block.
‘A perfect storm for a spike in violence’
Sean Mauricette, a youth worker, said he believes the gun violence could be connected to people losing their jobs, families stuck at home due to COVID-19 and domestic abuse.
He said the city could see a rise in violence this summer because community centres are closed and youth programs are cancelled due to COVID-19.
“It’s the perfect storm for a spike in violence,” Mauricette told CBC Toronto.
Mauricette said there is already an increase in substance abuse and domestic abuse in Toronto with everyone at home due to the pandemic.
“If there’s a spike in domestic abuse, there’s going to be children witnessing that. When they leave the home, they’re taking these behaviours with them, potentially. So everything is interrelated and we have to be mindful of that,” he said.
The pandemic has also left families financially strapped and that means youth workers cannot reach their clients on the phone, he said.
“Even just trying to reach them on the phone, you can’t reach them on the phone because phone bills are being cut because parents can’t afford to pay for the phone when they need to put food on the table,” he said.
Mauricette said the city needs to understand that poverty is a factor in the violence. He added that new ways are needed to reach young people to protect their physical and mental health as the pandemic continues.