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William Blair, Toronto's Chief of Police
William Blair, Toronto's Chief of Police

Earlier discussion

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair on gangs and guns Add to ...

We will continue to arrest them and put them before the courts. We will continue to convict them, and even if they can never be rehabilitated, there is an irrefutable logic in incarcerating such people in order to protect the rest of us from their criminality.

We have seen a greater awareness among the judiciary to play a more active role in protecting the public from such individuals. We have new legislation that creates greater consequences. The police will continue to do our best to reduce victimization and to prevent crime, and the public must play an active role in addressing the causes of crime. We must also not lose sight of the fact that we live in one of the safest large cities in North America.

[Editor's note: Top Toronto Police officers often compare their city with Chicago, which has a city population comparable to Toronto's. Last year, Chicago had more than 500 homicides, while Toronto had 70.]

Hunter Coblentz: Concerning [Toronto Mayor David Miller's]proposed ban on handguns and considering that this will be consequential only to owners of registered firearms, will this proposed ban truly be effective since the majority of shootings in Toronto involve illegal, unregistered firearms?

Chief Bill Blair: About 30% of all crime handguns that we seize from criminals have been stolen or otherwise diverted from legal gun owners. Legal gun owners are not dangerous but their guns certainly become dangerous when they get into the hands of criminals. My officers have to take these loaded firearms off of those criminals every day. I support any measure that will make it harder for criminals to get guns.

We are also encountering many issues with the failure of legal gun owners to adequately secure their weapons. Gun ownership is not just a right, it comes with a legal responsibility to secure these weapons against theft or misuse.

We are working hard to stop guns coming into Canada. We need to also ensure that the ones that are here don't get into hands of criminals.

Mark S. Noel: I believe that the gun registry has failed to save one life and in fact reduces women's options to defend themselves from rape and murder. Do you agree that spending billions to harass law-abiding citizens does nothing to reduce criminal gun violence?

Chief Bill Blair: With respect to the gun registry, you are misinformed. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Canadian Police Association have voiced their strong support for the Gun Registry precisely because it is an important source of information for public and police officer safety. The police in Canada use it thousands of times each day. It helps us keep our people safe.

Filling out a form does not limit anyone's ability to be safe, and it hardly constitutes harassment.

You are also misinformed about the cost of the registry. Although there was certainly concern about its initial cost, I am now advised that it cost about $3 million a year to administer. This is money well spent to make our communities safer for everyone.

[Editor's note: Last year, statistics provided to The Canadian Press by the RCMP showed actual and projected operating costs for gun-registration programs at $35.9-million over three fiscal years starting in 2006.]

Robert Turner: Greetings Chief! I wonder if you would be so kind as to answer the following query. In looking at the map Violence in 12 Division, I noticed that out of 12 cases, only four cases have resulted in charges being laid. Is a 1/3 ratio of charges being made in a grouping of 12 murders, a result typically to be expected in resolving these types of criminal acts? If so, can anything be done to improve the odds of justice being rendered to the victims and their families? Thank you.

Chief Bill Blair: Unfortunately, some of the murders that have taken place will take longer to solve than others. In cases where there is little physical evidence or where there are no witnesses or where the witnesses are reluctant to come forward, we must gather the evidence to bring perpetrators to justice in more time consuming, and labour intensive ways. Many gang shootings have few witnesses. We often solve these cases by conducting investigations into the activities of the gangs. This has encouraged some to cooperate and has helped us uncover the evidence we need to solve and prosecute these crimes. It takes time but we never give up on any case, and in time, most will be solved.

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