The safety of our city depends on all of us being tough on crime and relentless in addressing the causes of crime.
At City Council this week, we will have the chance to do both.
In the wake of the horrific gun and gang violence we have seen this year, we have developed a plan which will invest millions in our police and provide technology to help them deal with the violence and catch those perpetrating it.
That’s on top of the 200 additional police officers we are hiring this year, the hiring of more officers in 2019, and the steps Chief Mark Saunders has taken immediately to increase staffing levels during the overnight hours for the next eight weeks.
I support our Toronto Police officers – they are the best in the world and they do a great job keeping our city safe.
Beyond these investments, I will continue to advocate strongly for changes to bail and parole laws – based on advice from frontline officers and the Chief – to ensure the courts crack down hard on those who are committing gun violence and carrying illegal guns.
I firmly believe that one of the best ways to support our police is to do everything possible as a city to tackle the roots of violence.
That’s why this plan will also invest up to $30 million in our communities – a substantial increase in the funding provided to groups doing good work right now trying to push back against the causes of violence.
We must be doing everything possible to make sure children aren’t lured into gang life, aren’t picking up guns, and aren’t contemplating using that gun to take a life.
That’s why I’m committed and I believe a majority of Council will be as well to expanding community programs to address gang violence and its root causes to make our communities stronger right now and keep them strong in the future.
These investments – which we will be asking the federal government to fund as part of its anti-gang youth violence initiatives – will make a difference in our communities.
We will be investing in programs we know that work – many which are already operating in communities – and that produce tangible results proving their successes.
There will be a heavy focus on employment.
In recent weeks I have sat with groups of young people who have told me they just want a chance at a job or a bit of support and encouragement dealing with school.
I believe modest investments to make sure we can expand the supports available will go a long way to keeping young people on a positive path.
For example, we will expand the Toronto Youth and Employment program to increase the number of counsellors who are helping young people who are vulnerable to being pulled into the world of violent crime to get a job and keep a job.
We will expand Toronto Community Housing’s YouthWorx program this summer and in future summers to employ more young people to do small jobs around TCHC, community clean-ups, repair work, community gardening and beautification.
I have also asked City staff in our employment services division to create two additional job fairs in the coming weeks for young people living in areas more affected by the violence, and these job fairs will include opportunities which specifically contemplate the possibility of some past involvement with the justice system.
At my request, earlier this year, staff hosted such a job fair in Rexdale that brought job opportunities to a neighbourhood where access to jobs is more difficult.
More than 300 young people, some with criminal records, met with 15 employers looking to hire at the job fair. So far, 42 young people have been hired and viable contact has been made with many more.
Those are three examples of the work we will be doing to strengthen our communities along with the initiatives focused on Toronto Police and Toronto Community Housing.
From my discussions with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford, I know they are just as committed as I am to fighting gun and gang violence – a problem that is on the rise across Ontario and across Canada.
I look forward to moving ahead with these supports – with the help of those other governments – to help our communities and to strike back at gun and gang violence.
John Tory is the Mayor of Toronto