As your new City Councillor, there is nothing more important to me than the safety of our community. The repeated acts of violence committed in our Oakwood-Vaughan neighbourhood is extremely upsetting. The fear and vulnerability residents in our community and across our city feel as a result of gun violence is unacceptable. I’ve personally spoken with the Unit Commander of 13 Division and have received confirmation that yesterday evening’s shooting was a targeted gang attack and the Police don’t believe that there is a public safety risk going forward as a result of this incident.
However, as you know all too well, last night’s shooting is unfortunately not an isolated incident. We need to work together as a neighbourhood to engage key public agencies to support us.
At a Community Safety Forum organized by my office earlier this year, residents were provided with an opportunity to ask important questions to the Toronto Police Service and City Staff about a number of crime-related concerns that were affecting our local community. Under the Toronto Police’s Enhanced Neighbourhood Policing Pilot Project, far more neighbourhood officers have now been deployed to Oakwood-Vaughan in an effort to increase surveillance and enforcement.
Following a homicide at a former problem drinking establishment, I held a Town Hall meeting with residents to ask that substantive action be taken by the Toronto Police Service, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, the City’s Community Crisis and Response Unit, and the City’s Municipal Licensing and Standards division. It became quickly apparent to everyone in attendance, that the system to address problem establishments was broken. That’s why, I moved a motion at City Council to direct the City’s Municipal, Licensing and Standards, Toronto Building, and Toronto Fire Services divisions to consult with the Toronto Police Service and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario to develop and implement a cross-jurisdictional action plan. This plan would unite and strengthen their ability to respond, manage and resolve the negative community impacts created by problematic bars.
While we need to address problem drinking establishments and support the police to respond when gun violence occurs and ensure that those responsible are no longer a threat to our community, enforcement alone is a short-term and reactive response that doesn’t address the root causes of the violence we’re experiencing.
Research shows that the most effective means of reducing gun violence is by providing youth at-risk with supports including job training, education assistance, and safe spaces to access recreation, counselling, and mentorship. Better options for vulnerable young people will support families, create safer communities, and stop youth from picking up a gun in the first place. I’m currently working with City Staff from Social Development on completing a needs assessment to determine the gaps in our neighbourhood and establish a vibrant and sustainable community space in the Oakwood-Vaughan area to address these needs.
Evidence from other communities in Toronto and elsewhere also demonstrates that local investments to improve neighbourhoods can lead to a reduction in violence. In partnership with the Oakwood-Vaughan and York-Eglinton BIAs as well as Oakwood Vaughan’s Neighbourhood Action Partnership (OVNAP), we are making streetscape upgrades, playground and garden enhancements, traffic safety enhancements, and much more.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be hosting a round table community meeting with the Toronto Police Service, Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and City Staff from the Community Crisis and Response Unit, Municipal, Licensing and Standards and Toronto Buildings to determine how we can address the root causes of these acts of violence. Residents will have the opportunity to connect with their neighbours and representatives from all levels of government, in order to determine the steps that need to be taken to prevent these violent and traumatic incidents from further happening in our neighbourhoods. I’ll be certain to let you know the date, time and location, once the details have been confirmed.
If you have any information regarding a criminal matter, please report it directly to the police. You can do so online at: www.torontopolice.on.ca/core or my telephone at 416-808-2222. If you wish to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 416-222-TIPS (8477) or online at: www.222tips.com
Let’s work together to ensure that our neighbourhoods are safe and vibrant places to live. We can demand more from the Police and every level of government to support us. Anything less is unacceptable to me and our community.
Councillor Josh Matlow
Toronto – St. Paul’s