By Akilah James (@ajxmes)
Toronto has been trying to control the growing gun violence problem for years, but unfortunately, it only seems to be getting worse.
According to data by the Toronto Police Service, there have been 434 incidents involving shootings or discharge of a firearm in 2020 alone. As a result, 204 people (to date) have been killed or injured.
In an attempted response to the crisis, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced in 2018 that the provincial government would be giving out $25 million in funding over the course of four years to address gang activity and gun crime. With $18 million allocated towards Toronto Police and the remaining $7.5 million to the “legal SWAT teams”.
Another of the Government’s efforts in trying to combat this issue was addressed earlier in May. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced a long-awaited ban on assault-style weapons - making it illegal to sell, use, import or transport over 1,500 varieties of different guns.
However, members of the Toronto community are saying these efforts are simply not enough and are beginning to take matters into their own hands.
Louis March is one such community member. Louis created the Zero Gun Violence Movement, an organization providing awareness and advocacy to engage people and organizations truly committed to reducing gun violence and building safe communities around Toronto.
“We strongly believe that we already have zero gun violence in Toronto but only in certain communities of certain people. There’s a difference between living in Rosedale and living in Rexdale,” says March. “We as a group acknowledge the differences and try to close the gaps.”
The Zero Gun Violence Movement provides workshops, outreach, and is in collaboration with over 40 different community organizations, agencies, and programs across the city.
“If we were not doing this work, there would be more gun violence in the city. If we left it only up to the police and politicians to manage this problem, we would become a city of cities where depending on where you live and the colour of your skin dictates whether you live in safety or not,” says March.
Another Torontorian, Hassan Mansoor, is also frustrated with the lack of work done around violence in the city.
Mansoor is creator of MySafeAlley, a website that allows residents to report any kind of crime or violence in the city and acts as a neighbourhood watch.
“I have personally been a victim many times,” says Mansoor when asked why he decided to create this website. “It’s about creating awareness and making people alert of what's happening around them so they are less likely to become victims themselves.”
“One notification can save a life.”
Once a user creates an account, all they have to do is report any criminal activity and it will send out a notification to all users. All activity reported would remain on the website for 24 hours. One can report over 32 different criminal activities.
Mansoor believes that keeping Torontonians safe should be a top priority and not just for monetary gain.
“There are no ads on the website and there will never be any ads. Although I am allowed to put ads on it, I am not putting any ads because this is not about making money, it is about creating awareness and safety doesn't have to come at a price.”
Both Louis and Hassan are working to make safer communities in Toronto. And their efforts are not in vain.
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