Toronto police chief says social programs, not more cops, needed to stem gang violence


Toronto Police chief Bill Blair says the solution to gang violence in the city is not to hire more police officers. In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Blair says the only long term remedy is for government and local businesses to start targeting young men from troubled neighbourhoods with social programming, activity and employment opportunities before they are old enough to join gangs.

Part of the solution, Blair says, requires learning more about the young people who join gangs, and finding out “where we lost them.”

Blair’s statement about social programming stands in contrast to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s assertion that more police officers will prevent gun crime in Toronto’s more troubled neighbourhoods.

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Toronto police chief says social programs, not more cops, needed to stem gang violence

  1. Interesting…. it seems Mr. Blair might be dipping his toe into the murky waters of Toronto politics. Why else would he snub the words of a Mayor that would help him in his current job..unless he doesn’t care about it anymore and is going for a different job…i.e. Mayor/Councillor

    Who wants to bet his name is on the ballot next time around?

    • I believe Chief Blair was widely quoted several years ago as saying that “The best way to be tough on crime is to be tough on the causes of crime.” so I don’t see this as him dipping toe into the waters of local politics, but rather a man who has developed an informed opinion & is sticking with it.

    • The guy who laughed and bragged about violating the Charter at the G20 won’t be running for office in the GTA,

  2. There was the definitive study over twenty years in I think Chicago that demonstrated that every dollar spent in early childhood development saves seven dollars in policing costs down the road, and a lot of other studies that say the same thing.
    Large numbers of untrained, inexperienced officers don`t equate to better policing. They equate to a police state. Maybe Mr. Ford wants a police state, or maybe he is just short-sighted & opportunistic. I could be persuaded of either possibility.

    However, complicated truths are harder to sell within the moral panic agenda subset of pseudo-conservativism than a good slogan is.

    IMHO, what we need is more training & meaningful career development for police officers, not more officers. More community-based policing would probably be good, too. I`m thinking of the Core Ritchie program in my hometown of Regina, which gives the police a human face to at-risk kids, and more conflict-resolution training for street-level officers.

    Having said that, we still need to make sure officers are protected, and that there are still officers to deal with violent hardened criminals, which again means, more training, more career development, and ultimately, more money. I don`t expect police to go against these types on my behalf as a citizen with anything less than the best training, leadership & equipment.

    Unfortunately, voting for civic politicians who support improved policing means voting against the ones who promise lower property taxes & business fees. (I think you will find the “good” ones on both sides of the political agenda–traditional conservatives & social democrats don`t differ so much in local politics.)

    Once again, it comes down not so much to left versus right as it does to the choice between an extra six inches on your next TV versus living in a better society ten or fifteen years down the road.

    • So much for the Harper law and order agenda…..which will cost us more tax dollars and we will have less safe communities. Tough on crime always sells to conservatives!!!!!

    • Oh, by all means. Let’s provide puppet shows and finger paints for the little darlings. Then, when they are confronted with a gang banger threatening to kill them because they won’t join their gang, our little social project can say “but Kermit the Frog wants me to have high esteem and stay away from meanies and capitalists.” Much preferable to having a competent police force.
      Incidentally, has anyone checked the murder rate in Chicago lately?

    • Oh really? In Chicago? Murder capital of North America? Sure worked well for them, didn’t it?

  3. Bill Blair is actually making sense here. I hope he can influence the mayor and the provincial and federal governments to support this. This is information that many social-type workers have known all along.

    • These kinds of programs led by cities and the RCMP, and the publicity around them could also help improve the public’s trust in our police forces over time.

  4. The conservative tough on crime approach is losing its credability with every gang shooting. As a conservative politcian, you know you’re in trouble when the police are saying getting “tough on crime” is not the answer.

  5. Although an ounce of intervention won’t always produce a pound of cure, without at least trying to help at risk kids with incentives such as a friendly face and a helping hand, you’ll always be second guessing the outcome if these sort of programs are not instituted. Having spent some time inside the old Guelph Reformatory and a few other prisons, I know that a certain percentage of inmates of any prison population are hardwired to be violent sociopaths. Meaning, that there’s very little chance of them ever being rehabilitated. Keep them in there just as long as humanly possible.

  6. What a laugh. Social programs. So instead of carrying around a guns and shooting each other, they’re gonna go play bingo at the hall. Right.

    • Bingo? Probably not.
      However there have been some studies which show a correlation between density of video game stores and a lower youth crime rate.

      And if that doesn’t float your boat, there’s a lot more around availability of sports clubs. Basketball, softball, billiards, etc. Of course, the key to those working is an involved coach/trainer/supervisor

  7. Let’ stop wasting time and $$$$$ on the estimated 2000 gangbangers and shift these resources to help the rest of the kids get jobs, education sports, etc. so they become community models. The current gangbangers can look forward to swift penalties possibly working to clean up reserves, etc” and the would be housed in their work areas.