Back in October, we discussed Project Community Space, a Toronto Police program meant to help curb gang and gun violence. Record high shootings in the city prompted police to take proactive measures to prevent or reduce criminal activity in high-risk neighbourhoods.
15 weeks and $4.5 million dollars in funding later, Project Community Space has come to an end, but was it a success? Police seem to think so, but many critics disagree.
Project Community Space took a three-pronged approach to reduce violent offences and firearm-related crimes in Toronto:
- Increase police presence in “at-risk” neighbourhoods. The intention was that increasing police visibility would make residents feel safer and reduce criminal activity in these areas.
- Community outreach. Toronto’s Guns and Gangs Task Force sought to better engage the community, providing community programs and informational sessions.
- More proactive monitoring of bail compliance. Police were more active in checking to make sure people were following bail conditions. In particular, they focused on people on bail for firearms offences and violent crimes.
Even the most stringent critics should admit, Project Community Space did deliver results. In just under 4 months, hundreds of arrests were made as a result of the program:
- 463 Arrests
- 1145 Charges
- 317 Firearms-related charges
- 212 Breach of bail
- 121 Violent offences
- 495 Other
In addition to these stats, solve rates increased during the 15 weeks and 45 people were referred to “gang exit” programs.
Although critics can’t deny these numbers, they still have valid concerns. Despite the spike in arrests and charges, the project did not stop gun violence in the city. Toronto neighbourhoods with the highest rates of gun violence didn’t see much of a drop in shootings during the program.
During the 15 weeks that Project Community Space ran in Toronto, there were 75 shootings involving fatalities or injuries.
DID IT WORK?
Juxtaposing the impressive arrest numbers against stats showing continued gun violence paints an unclear image. While the police are quick to defend the results of Project Community Space, critics are quick to note that it failed to actually prevent gun violence.
While the program didn’t put an immediate end to violent crime in Toronto, that wasn’t the goal. Nor would it be a realistic one. No single approach will put an end to gun offences overnight. Instead, Project Community Space sought to make an environmental and communal impact as part of an ongoing effort to reduce future gun and gang violence.
Chief Saunders has said, “you’re not born a gangster,” in reference to the need to change socio-economic factors to reduce gun and gang-related crimes. It is possible that there may be benefits down the line with these sorts of programs, even though the immediate results may be less satisfying
Right now, it’s hard to be sure what the long term effects or ramifications of Project Community Space will be. As well, we look to see what the future holds for Toronto gun and gang programs. Police have suggested that they may run a similar project again, but the Chief of Police has stated that they will be implementing new strategies in 2020.