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Toronto homicides up slightly in 2024 but don’t indicate a trend, say experts

The number of homicides in Toronto is slightly higher than it was at this time last year but experts say the short-term data shouldn’t be used to draw conclusions about long-term trends.

As of March 18 of this year, there were 16 homicides in Toronto, which is six more than in 2023, according to the Toronto Police Service’s online data portal. But the increase to 16 has 2024’s numbers in line with recent years: there were 15 homicides at this point in 2020, 16 in 2021 and 17 in 2022. 

Among the 16 homicides, there were nine shooting homicides as of March 18, an increase from one at this time last year. Despite the seeming stark contrast, it’s a decrease from 2022, when there were 13 shooting homicides at this point in the year.

“I think you should be careful about short term swings,” said Irvin Waller, a professor emeritus of criminology at the University of Ottawa. 

“When you’re looking at a small number of homicides, it may feel like a lot, but it’s actually a small number of homicides. You would expect fluctuations from quarter to quarter and from year to year.” 

Insp. Terry Browne, the acting inspector of Toronto police’s homicide and missing persons unit, said in his experience the first three months aren’t much help in predicting how the rest of a year will go. He said the year began relatively quietly but there was a surge of gun activity at the end of February and into March that increased the homicide numbers. 

“But I don’t think anyone should take too much from it, because it may in fact just be a blip that’s occurred,” Browne said in an interview with CBC Toronto.

High profile homicides concern advocate

Louis March, founder of the Toronto-based Zero Gun Violence Movement said he is concerned about the increase in shooting homicides so far, but it’s important to look at that in context. 

“We have to be careful how we respond and react to the data that’s here,” he said. “Yes, it’s alarming compared to last year, but over the last five years it’s almost in line with what’s been going on.” 

What concerns March this year is the types of shooting homicides that have happened, like the man who was randomly shot and killed near Jane Street and Driftwood Avenue in late February, as well as the man who shot and killed his brother and father in mid-March, he said.

He said those need to be examined to see if there were intervention points missed before they happened. 

“For example, some of these shootings [could] be related back to mental health issues,” March said. “What are we doing to deal with mental health with young people in our communities? And if we ignore it or postpone acting on it, why are we acting surprised when it results in violence?” 

Police have not said whether mental health issues were a factor in either shooting. But after the man was killed near Jane Street and Driftwood Avenue, Chief Myron Demkiw said at a prayer walk that building partnerships with the community is an important step toward making it safe.

Toronto gun violence has been declining

At the end of 2023, gun violence in Toronto was on a downward trend — dropping 30 per cent since 2019. 

Speaking to CBC Toronto at the end of last year, March credited the involvement of different sectors, such as in health, education, community and social services and children and youth services, as outlined in Toronto’s SafeTO plan initiated in 2021. 

When interviewed for this, he said there needs to be an analysis of what’s working to ensure continued success. 

“What else can we do to upscale the effort but also target, deploy the resources where they need to be?” he said. 

A man wearing all black clothing, a hoodie, jacket and hat, stands in a snowy park.
Louis March, founder of Toronto’s Zero Gun Violence Movement, said the homicide data needs to be considered within the context of the last five years. (Susan Goodspeed/CBC)

Sureya Ibrahim, founder of Mothers of Peace, a group that supports mothers who have lost children to gun violence, said a key intervention is to offer pathways to stable employment for people who might already be involved in crime.

She also said it’s important that family members impacted by homicides aren’t left behind when it comes to mental health supports.

“The trauma has a ripple effect and we need to be mindful of that and community suffering,” she said. “Let’s not normalize suffering, let’s show compassion.”

Adam Ellis, an assistant professor at the University of Waterloo who teaches on urban violence, said its important to remember that crime statistics only demonstrate a very small part of the community. 

“There’s way more people in the community doing good stuff than there are people that are resorting to gun violence,” he said. 

To shift away from violence, he said people with lived experience need to be in academia and working in partnership with organizations trying to reduce crime.

“The resolution is going to come from those in the community.” 

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