This summer, Toronto communities were affected by a spike in gang and gun violence. The media has been all over the rise in shootings, and there has been public demand for a solution.
Project Community Space is the latest attempt by the Toronto Police Service to curb these issues. The $4.5 million project launched in mid-August and will continue to run for 11 weeks. It specifically aims to increase safety in Toronto communities with the highest rates of firearms offences and gang activity.
WHAT DOES PROJECT COMMUNITY SPACE ENTAIL?
The primary function of Project Community Space is prevention. The goal is to prevent or reduce criminal activity in specific Toronto neighbourhoods. The aim is to achieve this through a variety of proactive Police measures.
The first step in the project is increasing the visibility and presence of police in “at-risk” neighbourhoods. This is a typical approach in these types of programs. The expectation is that the added visibility will make residents feel safer while simultaneously deterring gang activity in patrolled areas.
The next factor is community engagement. Project Community Space is intended to provide more community programs, as well as having direct engagement. Throughout the fall, the Guns & Gangs Task Force is hosting 31 gang prevention town halls.
These town halls serve to educate families in neighbourhoods with high rates of gang activity. The goal is to help them prevent their children from being recruited.
As well, the project will entail more proactive bail compliance monitoring. This addresses both the risk to the community and the offenders. This summer saw people out on bail for firearms offences becoming victims of gun violence themselves.
Politicians and the Police Officers that support Project Community Space have also advocated for both much stricter bail release conditions and denial of bail for people charged with firearms offences.
THE INTEGRATED GUNS & GANGS TASK FORCE
The Toronto Police Integrated Guns & Gangs Task Force, also known and Guns & Gangs or G&G, is running Project Community Space. They are a team of police officers, Crown attorneys, and support staff focused on reducing organized crime. Their specific focus is on curbing gun violence and drug trafficking.
In addition to hosting the town hall meetings, Guns & Gangs is providing intelligence and guidance for the project.
Although It is only mid-way through the program, Project Community Space is already receiving serious criticisms.
A common complaint is that the project is really just a band-aid solution. It’s a short-term solution to a long-term problem. The program may decrease gun and gang activity during its 11-month run. However, it does little to solve the underlying issues.
Another main concern is that Project Community Space is the same old approach under a new name. The approach has been tried before and has failed to net the promised results. Specifically, critics are comparing it to another TAVIS (Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy).
TAVIS was meant to reduce crime and increase safety in communities. But the program is largely seen as a failure that earned notoriety for breaching Charter Rights.
The project also allows for invasive surveillance methods. These are coming under fire as they monitor not only suspects but innocent civilians as well. One such method is the ShotSpotter.
The ShotSpotter website claims a 35% drop in homicide rates when it was implemented in Florida. Yet, In Toronto, it remains highly controversial technology. Although, in theory, the technology simply detects gunshots and pinpoints there location, there is significant concern over the ability to use them to pick up other sounds. For instance, listening in on conversations.
The effectiveness of the technology is also up for debate. In San Francisco, Shotspotter detected over 3000 gunshots, but only resulted in two arrests. And only one of those arrests was for a firearms offence.
For many Torontonians, giving up privacy for an unproven tool is a bitter pill to swallow.
TORONTO GUN & GANG DEFENCE LAWYER
If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges for Toronto firearms or gang-related offences, a criminal defence lawyer is your best bet. They will help you understand your charges, options, and potential outcomes.
William Jaksa is a Toronto defence lawyer with experience in youth, gang, and firearms offences. Contact us today for a consultation.