We rarely do an Extra, Extra, but tonight’s an exception for two reasons: first, two major crime events — a bus hijacking and a shooting — happened in downtown Toronto over the past twenty-four hours that merit mentioning; and second, in each story the facts are getting lost along the way and, as usual, the media is muddling the details of what actually (seems to have) happened. It’s our goal in this recap to try to synthesize and clarify all the information coming in, as well as point out some holes in the coverage that’s out there so far. If you spot a mistake that we make, please let us know in the comments with a link to whatever source you’re getting your info from, and we’ll correct ourselves.
First, a 15 year-old was shot in the leg at 5:45 in the morning at Yonge and Dundas outside of Sam The Record Man. According to CTV, the shot teenaged boy was “with a small group of people” when several shots (not confirmed yet how many, but at least four) were fired from a car on the west side of the street. According to The Star, the recovering teenager, thus far, is not co-operating with police. Surveillance cameras (you know, those things whose mere existence was supposed to make the streets completely safe, but already haven’t done too hot of a job at that) apparently captured the shooting, but there’s no word yet as to how much the cameras “saw.”
As terrible as an event like this is, some people are already jumping on the “year/week/whatever of the gun” bandwagon yet again, linking this shooting to the Jane Creba shooting of a year ago. So far, however, the details of this shooting seem quite different from last year’s Boxing Day tragedy. Saturday morning’s shooting happened in the same area, granted, but it also happened at 5:45 in the morning, when Yonge Street was all but empty. Shootings from cars on a mostly empty street very early in the morning between groups of people who are un-cooperative with police tend not to just “happen;” in fact, they even have a name: drive-bys, and they’re almost always gang-to-gang and almost always planned out.
Second, a TTC bus was hijacked earlier this afternoon, and the details as of right now are sketchy at best. According to City, a man boarded a bus at 12:30pm at around Bay and Wellesley, rode it down to Front and Bay, and then — and this is particularly significant — only when the bus was empty except for himself and the driver did he pull a gun. “From Bay the vehicle went eastbound to Cherry St., north on Cherry to Queen St., and east from there to Church St” (City’s final directions are wrong, however, since Cherry is east of Church, not west). The suspect got off the bus and “took off” on foot. The man is a white male, in his 40s, 6’1″, and was wearing a black suede jacket, jeans and a red hat.
Bad thing? Of course. But no injuries to the driver (who’s doing alright, described as “calm” by Detective Serroul), and done in a careful and deliberate way, as the suspect waited until the bus was emptied before flashing a gun. We’ll have to wait for more information to come through about it, because the whole thing sounds very weird to us.
Also, though City claims that “surveillance equipment on the bus can provide [the police] with more information” about what happened (suggesting, perhaps, that like the other shooting there may be video or audio to point them in the right direction) they chose a puzzling quotation to illustrate that fact, also from Detective Serroul: “There’s some electronics equipment on the bus that has to be downloaded which will probably give us some idea about the route the bus was on on that odyssey.” How, we ask, would data of the route of the “odyssey” help, when — aside from messing up which way is East and which is West — City already seems to pretty much have the route down pat themselves? Are we missing something here?
Does Toronto have a problem with crime? Yes — particularly with gang violence — but it’s also a remarkably safe city (especially, it’s worth pointing out, if you’re not in a gang). Of all the things that Toronto was this past year, do we really think that a gun represents our city most? Today’s incidents are indicative of a problem with gun control, but not that the city is going straight to hell. Either way, “the year of the gun” is a label best applied to another city in another time. Toronto may be many things, and many master statuses and over-arching defining labels can be used to describe our city. “Dangerous,” however, just isn’t one.
Photo from fully reclined from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.