Pubdate: Sat, 07 Jan 2006
Source: Oakville Beaver (CN ON)
Copyright: 2006, Oakville Beaver
Author: Angela Blackburn
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


With the second shooting in three weeks occurring after hours at
Oakville Place Thursday night, the town's top officials say Toronto's
gun violence is spilling over.

"We've had no murder yet, but it's certainly of a concern and it's
telling us the nature of things is changing," said Acting Mayor Keith
Bird, who is also chair of Halton's Police Services Board.

"Obviously it's a concern," stated Mayor Ann Mulvale who was in
England last week.

Bird, who was on deck to elaborate on the mayor's behalf, said in the
wake of Thursday's shooting there was a conference call that involved
himself, Oakville District Superintendent Dan Okuloski and Police
Chief Ean Algar.

That's a protocol followed in connection to any major

Just weeks before, on Dec. 15, an Oakville man was shot in the chest,
while sitting in a vehicle in Westoak Trails, by someone who drove by
and shot the man.

Thursday night, a 24-year-old Toronto man was shot at close range in
the leg in the parking lot of Oakville Place.

"Toronto's gun violence appears to be here," said Bird, noting however
with Thursday's incident still under investigation, initial reports
appeared to indicate Oakville was simply a convenient location for a
"business transaction."

"We still believe that we're the safest community in Canada for our
size, but we're certainly not immune to what's transpiring very close
on our border," said Bird.

"It has the attention of senior levels of government," said the head
of Halton's police commission.

Earlier in the week, in response to reports of escalating gun violence
in Toronto -- brought to a head by the Boxing Day shooting of a
15-year-old girl who was out shopping near Toronto's Eaton Centre --
Ontario Premier McGuinty met with Toronto Mayor David Miller and
officials from the Toronto police and OPP.

McGuinty then announced $51 million would be allocated to various
efforts to reduce gun violence in Toronto including special police
squads devoted to gun violence, beefed up laws, beefed up courts, and
beefed up police numbers.

Toronto Police will get an additional $5 million immediately for a
trio of new teams with specially-trained officers.

More than 30 Crown prosecutors will prosecute gun crimes in the
courts, the OPP's Provincial Weapons Enforcement Unit will be
expanded, additional victim services staff will support victims of gun
crimes, major crime courts will be dedicated, and a new,
state-of-the-art Operations Centre for the Guns and Gangs Task Force
- -- which includes officers from the Toronto Police Service and the OPP
- -- will be established.

The Province also said its commitment to put 1,000 more officers on
Ontario's streets -- which includes 34 new officers allotted to Halton
- -- under the Safer Communities -- 1,000 Officers Partnership Program
by 2007 would be fast tracked.

The government has also made it law to report gunshot wounds and has
passed the Marijuana Grow-Ops Law to help stifle the illicit drug
trade. Oakville has been a hot bed in recent years of marijuana grow
operations called "grow houses" most of which operate dangerously in
local neighbourhoods unbeknownst to their neighbours and often too
numerous for police to keep up with.

"In talking with the police chief this morning, I'm not aware of any
of that funding coming to the Halton Regional Police," admitted Bird.

However, if Toronto can get a grip on its gun violence, maybe that,
too, will spill over Oakville's borders.

Bird called the gun violence being seen in Toronto, and more recently
in Oakville, as "foreign" to the community.

"It used to be when you got in a disagreement you'd have a few broken
bones and cuts and bruises. This has escalated to a level of violence
we're not familiar with," said Bird.

"We used to laugh at cases of road rage in California. I don't think
we ever contemplated that we'd have a gun pointed at us," Bird said.

"To a certain extent, this kind of violence is foreign to us," said

As much as it appears Halton is reaping the spillover of Toronto
violence, Halton is also bound to benefit from the money being
invested into police and courts in Toronto.

Bird said because of its very location -- containing an international
border in the form of Lake Ontario -- and its proximity to larger
cities from Toronto to Niagara, Halton police routinely co-operate on
joint task forces particularly those related to drug squads and major
crime and gang units.

One of the results of the Paul Bernardo case, Bird said, was the
lesson that there's a need for better communication among police
"because crime doesn't exactly stop at the borders."

With three homicides recorded for 2005 -- an "all-time high" for
Halton -- Bird said no one has been murdered as a result of gun
violence here -- yet.

"Shootings are foreign to us and not the method used to settle
disputes in the past," said Bird.

Noting recent media reports of the Toronto mother turning in her
teenage son when she found he had a loaded AK-47 assault rifle, Bird
said, "This is scary stuff. What has happened here? It is of concern
to us."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin