Toronto is the safest large- or medium-sized city in Canada, and considerably safer than any city in the U.S. Crime in Toronto has been falling for the last nine years, as it has in other Canadian cities.
Low crime levels do not always reflect the public mood about crime, and in Toronto there’s plenty of public concern about youth, guns and gangs, even though these crimes have also been falling.
This concern has led to two reports being released. Lawyer Julian Falconer headed up a committee, created after student Jordan Manners was found murdered in a school stairwell, which reported a year ago about making schools safer.
Former chief justice Roy McMurtry and Alvin Curling reported a few months ago in a document called Roots of Youth Violence about what could be done to reduce the damage caused by youth involved with gangs and guns.
Both reports concluded the key is not spending more money on police, but instead creating more and better social and recreational programs for youth. Falconer never recommended police officers be placed in schools. Roots of Youth Violence states there is an over-criminalization of incidents.
But our governments have trouble finding the money for these new and better social programs for youth. Instead, we spend money on other things. This year, the Toronto police force is asking for $850 million, which is $30 million more than last year. None of that large sum includes money for these social programs to assist youth — the police force and the Toronto Police Services Board are in the business of speaking up for more police, not for social programs. In all likelihood the police will get the money, which the experts agree won’t resolve youth gang and gun problems, and youth will get the promises.
Somehow our governments have to change the way we look at policing. Safe communities depend more on good social and recreational programs than they do on more police officers in more squad cars.
Who is willing to stand up and say youth have more of a priority this year for that extra $30 million because we want to meet public concern about some youth being attracted to guns and gangs?