Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Shootings that have killed seven Toronto teens this year

A 16-year-old boy has become the latest casualty in a string of gun violence that claimed the lives of six other young Toronto teenagers this year.

Yusuf Tifow was shot dead around midnight Sunday on the 19th floor of an apartment complex in the city’s northwest, at 2240 Weston Rd., near Lawrence Avenue.

Dallilah Johnie, who lives in an adjacent apartment building, says she heard no gunshots overnight, but knew something was wrong in the morning when she saw yellow police tape outside.

    We have to deal with the problem or else…

“It’s got me scared,” said Ms. Johnie, who has a young son. “The first thing that comes to my mind is my son. … You never know what’s going on, [who is] out there, shooting guns. It’s shocking to see a young lad gunned down like that.”

Police were not releasing any details about possible suspects. Officers continued to investigate Monday afternoon, while a security guard prevented journalists from entering the mid-rise, white-brick Weston apartment building.

Mr. Tifow’s death is just the latest in a rash of youth shootings in Toronto this year, although police are not saying whether any of the incidents may be linked. Asked whether gangs or drugs played a role, Const. Wendy Drummond responded: “All cases continue to be investigated. Homicide is actively working on the latest case [but] no further details are available at this time.”

The first case dates back to January, when 15-year-old football player Tyson Bailey was shot multiple times inside a Regent Park high-rise. Weeks later, St. Aubyn Rodney, also 15, was shot while hanging out with friends at his Jane-Finch apartment unit, prompting manslaughter charges against another teen. In February 15-year-old Jarvis Montaque was shot dead in Rexdale by an unknown assailant wielding a semi-automatic pistol.

Then, over the summer, three more young men were gunned down: 15-year-old Tahj Loor Walters died in late July at a plaza in the Jane-Finch corridor, and in August, 16-year-old O’She Doyles-Whyte and 15-year-old Kwame Duodu were fatally shot in an outdoor common area at a housing complex on Grandravine Drive. Several youths fled the scene on bicycles, according to police.

    It’s sad. I’m getting fed up with it

Connections have emerged between a number of the victims. Before he was killed, Mr. Walters reportedly tweeted: “Miss my bro,” in reference to Mr. Rodney. In addition, Mr. Walters, Mr. Doyles-Whyte and Mr. Duodu were friends.

“It’s sad. I’m getting fed up with it,” said Katon, who only goes by one name and describes himself as a community leader. On his way into 2240 Weston on Monday, Katon said the violence needs to stop. “We have to deal with the problem or else… more kids are going to die.”

All of the recent shootings occurred at, or within close proximity of, Toronto Community Housing properties. In the past, TCHC president Gene Jones has refuted suggestions that his organization is part of the problem, noting: “Crime comes from outside and they run on TCHC property. Why? I don’t know… We have too many programs that are going on on our properties for kids to get involved in.”

Still, the links between poverty and crime are well-documented. Scot Wortley, a University of Toronto professor who specializes in youth crime, noted that such incidents are more likely to occur in disadvantaged areas, including housing projects.

“These are individuals who are both economically and socially isolated from the rest of society, and as a result, there seems to be almost a different subculture that develops,” Mr. Wortley said, noting while most residents in housing projects are law-abiding and peaceable, “for a small section of the population, there is a gravitation toward guns and gangs as a means of defiance.”

Of all seven cases involving 15- and 16-year-olds gunned down this year, arrests have been made in relation to just one. That could partly be due to the perception that gangs are involved, Mr. Wortley noted.

“There is this idea that if you’re a rat or a snitch,” he said, “you’re going to pay the consequences within these isolated communities.”
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