Speaking Up to Stop Shootings
Toronto Crime Stoppers has launched a public awareness campaign aimed at getting illegal firearms out of the community.
Crime Stoppers Chair Sean Sportun said the theme of the campaign – If Someone Just Spoke Up – is often a question asked in the aftermath of violence, when it should be asked to prevent crime.
The objective of the campaign is to raise awareness about the deadly impact of illegal firearms on communities, and to deter further criminality and save lives by educating and encouraging citizens on how to anonymously report to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or via www.222tips.com.
“As a community, when we remain silent, we are all victims – this campaign is impactful and generates thoughts to action to keep our communities safe. This proactive approach to create awareness on illegal firearms is a testament to improving the safety of the community we serve and works to empower a movement of a crime free Toronto,” Sportun said.
Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw said gun violence continues to be one of the most significant public safety issues and concerns in every North American city, including Toronto where the vast majority of gun violence is perpetrated by people who are unlawfully in possession of illegal firearms.
“The impacts of gun violence are horrific for victims and traumatizes their respective families and entire communities often leading to inter-generational trauma, the impacts of which are devastating,” he said, at the campaign launch at Toronto Police headquarters on July 26. “As we are getting these illegal firearms off the streets, we are also addressing the root causes of gun and gang violence which we know are very complex and require a thoughtful, multi-sectoral approach.”
Demkiw said concerned citizens who see something and say something play an essential role in preventing crime in the city.
“If you are watching this and you have information about an illegal firearm, I urge you to contact the police or provide an anonymous tip through Toronto Crime Stoppers,” he said. “With the help of our residents, I am confident this campaign will help us prevent gun violence, reduce victimization and create safer communities. While we continue to enhance our efforts to prevent gun violence, we will also enhance our efforts to target those who choose to carry and use illegal firearms in our communities”
The Chief said the Service, through the Toronto Police Services Board, has also advocated for bail reform and other legislative changes to tackle gun violence.
These include (but are not limited) ensuring that bail hearings for the most serious firearm offences are heard by an Ontario or Superior Court judge or at least a provincial court judge; amending the criminal code to include a route to the charge of First Degree Murder, by including death that results from the discharge of a firearm in a congregate setting; and sentencing judges be given the ability (not mandatory, but discretionary) to increase parole ineligibility by two-thirds of any custodial sentence when the court finds that an offender has discharged a firearm in a congregate setting in committing the offence.
“Additionally, we will continue to support efforts to keep community members safe from repeated violent offenders,” the Chief added.
Inspector Norman Proctor, the Toronto Integrated Gun & Gang Task Force Unit Commander, said illegal firearms are of great concern to law enforcement agencies and a public safety concern.
“Trafficking in illegal firearms continues to be a lucrative business for criminal organizations whose members have zero regard for public safety and conduct their activities strictly for financial gain,” he said. “A firearm purchased in the United States for $500 can easily sell for up to $5,000 in Canada.
In 2022, a total of 620 crime guns were seized in Toronto. Of that number, 537 were handguns. A total of 421 were traced to the United States and 54 seized handguns remain untraceable.
“Broken down, 87 per cent of seized crime-related traced handguns originated in the United States,” said Proctor. “Various models of the Glock pistol remain the firearms of choice for traffickers and purchasers,”
He also noted that 77 long guns were seized as crime guns – 22.5 per cent were sourced to the United States and 78.5 per cent sourced to Canada.
“Most striking in Ontario was that a mere three per cent of traced firearms were legally owned in Canada prior to becoming crime guns,” added Proctor. “This puts into perspective how serious the illegal firearm trade has become across the city, province and country. Although it fluctuates, Arizona, Texas and Florida are currently the top states for sourced firearms from the U.S.”
Project Moneypenny, a yearlong investigation involving firearms enforcement teams and outside agencies, led to 44 individuals being identified and arrested and 483 charges laid.
Seizures included 86 firearms, overcapacity magazines and about 1,500 rounds of ammunition, large quantities of illegal narcotics, cash and body armour.
“This does not include an arrest of a female south of the border who had 87 firearms in her possession,” said Proctor. “These firearms were destined for Canada and many, I am sure, for the streets of Toronto”.
Last year, anonymous tips to the Toronto Crime Stoppers (TCS) program resulted in the seizure of 89 illegal firearms, a 394 per cent increase from the previous year.
So far this year, tips have led to 14 illegal firearms being taken off the streets.
“It is clear Crime Stoppers work and together, we are making a difference,” said TCS Chair Sean Sportun. “Anonymously saying something to Toronto Crime Stoppers about the location of an illegal firearm not only keeps our communities safe, but it may also just save someone’s life – the life of a cherished daughter, son, mother, father, friend or loved one. As Torontonians, we should all feel safe to go out shopping, meet a friend for lunch and have our children play in our neighbourhoods parks and playgrounds. It is our duty as community members to be there for others, to speak up for others when they cannot or will not.”
Anyone with information about someone possessing an illegal firearm can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or submit a tip online at 222tips.com