Yet another teenage boy has died from gun violence in the northwest part of Toronto.
The boy, 16, died from a gunshot wound Sunday night, according to Toronto police.
Police said they responded to a call regarding a shooting at an apartment building near Lawrence Avenue and Weston Road on Sunday shortly before midnight. They found the teen, injured, inside an apartment. The boy was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The teen's death marks the seventh teenage homicide this year, and the fourth this summer. All but one of those seven shootings took place in the northwest part of the city, and five of them took place in Toronto community housing projects. Some of the boys grew up with each other.
In an initiative called Project Ice, police have increased their presence in this neighbourhood in response to the escalation of violence here. Mounted units, drug squads, patrol officers and investigative teams have swooped down in this area west of Keele Street and north of St. Clair Avenue to address the spate in shootings.
A manslaughter charge against a 17-year-old, whose name is under a publication ban, has been laid in just one of the cases. All seven deaths are still under investigation, and police spokesman Mark Pugash said it is too early to draw conclusions about whether drugs, gang rivalries or something else is behind the rash in teenage deaths.
"If, as the investigations go on, there is information that becomes apparent and we're in a position to release, we will do so, but at this point I would caution against trying to reach conclusions," Mr. Pugash said. "These are all very high profile and high priority investigations, and the work is going on very aggressively."
In a radio interview with police Chief Bill Blair on Newstalk 1010, the chief suggested some of the boys may be innocent victims caught between the crossfires of opposing gang members.
"It appears there's a certain amount of rivalry existing between two opposing groups, and what we have seen in the past sometimes, rivalries can lead to indiscriminate acts of violence targeting completely innocent people – not anyone necessarily involved in gang activity, but just simply being in the neighbourhood to which somebody is intent on victimizing," Chief Blair said.
Chief Blair is urging witnesses to come forward saying that it is "almost impossible" to solve some crimes if people in the community don't cooperate with the police. He stressed that his officers are working to build relationships of trust with community members and keeping them safe.
"We put those additional resources in to keep them and their children safe and we are actively pursuing those individuals who we know to be involved in violence," Chief Blair told NewsTalk 1010. "And we'll do it in partnership with the community as respectfully as we can possibly be to all the decent people that live there."
Editor's note: Due to changes in this case, the name of the victim has been removed from this story in accordance with the Youth Criminal Justice Act.