Toronto's police chief says public outrage over the killing of a pregnant woman in a gun-plagued northwest neighbourhood is not enough, and that people with information about the shooting must step forward.
"Right now, we're looking for more co-operation. What we're looking for is evidence, at the end of the day," Chief Mark Saunders said at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, less than 48 hours after the death of Rochelle Bobb, 35.
Chief Saunders added that people in communities where gun violence is a problem are either too afraid to step forward or are supporting people who carry firearms. Policing alone cannot solve the problem of gun violence, he explained.
"Make that phone call," he implored people who may know of individuals carrying or using guns.
Ms. Bobb, who was expecting her third child, was with three others in a car that was targeted on Sunday night. Several bullets hit the stationary vehicle as it dropped off one of the passengers in the Rexdale area of north Etobicoke.
One bullet struck Ms. Bobb, 35, in the chest as she sat in the back seat. She was pronounced dead after an emergency caesarean section. Her child is in stable condition.
Chief Saunders said the area where the shooting occurred had seen an increase in "gun play," and that half of the incidents were related to street-level gangs – prompting the police force to deploy more officers in the area. The response had helped reduce the number of shootings. "We had things under control," he said.
But Chief Saunders was careful not to depict the latest shooting as evidence of a gang war or to indicate that gun violence was spiralling out of control in the city.
The city has had 29 murders in 2016, almost twice the number for the same period last year. Of those murders this year, 19 were the result of gun violence – compared with six for 2015. Incidents involving a gun are also up: 135 this year compared with 84 for the same period a year ago.
Chief Saunders declined to give a concrete reason for the increasing gun violence. The spike is causing worry that Toronto could surpass its 2005 high of 52 gun murders by the time 2016 draws to an end.
The police chief played down concerns that incidents could increase even more during the summer, calling Toronto "the safest urban city in North America" and arguing that it is not the only one experiencing a spike in gun violence. He cited a Washington Post article that pointed to a surge in gun violence in cities across North America.
He also said the most recent Toronto gun killing is "solvable." Chief Saunders said the key will be people stepping forward with information.
"There is no doubt that the person who did this is talking," he said. People who may have knowledge of the crime – or the shooter – may be holding back out of fear or because they do not think the information they have is important, he said. "I am here to say that it does have value and we want that information."
The police have been canvassing the neighbourhoods near the shooting in the hopes of gaining vital information.
The police chief could not say if detectives were searching for more than one suspect or confirm the identity of the intended target of the shooting.
With reports from Selena Ross and Tu Thanh Ha