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Toronto boosts police presence amid ‘potential risk to safety’ and spike in gun violence, shooting deaths

Reuters

Toronto was under heavier-than-usual police protection on Thursday due to an unspecific “potential risk to safety” in Canada’s largest city, police said without providing details.

Heightened security, including emergency response teams, was visible around tourist sites such as the CN Tower and a nearby aquarium in downtown Toronto. The city’s police said the increased presence was due to an “unconfirmed, uncorroborated piece of information” related to the Greater Toronto Area.

In April, a Canadian man plowed a van into pedestrians on a crowded Toronto sidewalk, killing 10 people in Canada’s deadliest mass killing in decades.

Security will also be ramped up in Toronto suburbs, with Peel Regional Police patrolling near Canada’s Wonderland, an amusement park that is another major tourist attraction.

In a separate announcement on Thursday, Toronto’s mayor and police chief announced a plan to combat a recent spate of gun violence in the city.

The city will deploy about 200 police officers in response to the recent spate in shootings, Toronto’s mayor and police chief said on Thursday, with officials blaming the increase on gang violence.

Deaths from gun violence in the city jumped 53 percent to 26 so far in 2018 from the same period last year, according to police data, with the number of shootings rising 13 percent.

Toronto Mayor John Tory and Police Chief Mark Saunders announced a plan that includes quicker and continuous hiring of front-line law enforcement officials to tackle the increase in gun violence.

“Our men and women are getting the necessary intelligence and we have put a play-book together,” Saunders told a news conference. “This overlay will provide the opportunity of roughly 200 extra officers at various times of the day.”

Saunders and Tory blamed the city’s gun violence on street gangs, with Tory calling for a reform of Canada’s bail system and gun control laws.

“I believe there really is a loophole or a shortcoming of the law that would allow anybody to buy 10 guns and not to keep track of them after that,” Tory said.

According to Saunders, the plan will launch on July 20 and continue for approximately eight weeks, during which there will be an increase in police presence between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m., the peak hours for gun violence. He did not elaborate on why it will be limited to the two months, but said police have already begun implementing some elements of the plan.

Saunders said law enforcement does not intend to saturate neighborhoods, but rather will focus on the “very few” who possess and use firearms in the city.

The municipal and federal governments are allocating a budget of up to 15 million Canadian dollars ($11.4 million) to address gang violence, Tory said.