Toronto’s homicide squad has had a difficult year — the team has had to investigate a record-breaking number of killings in Canada’s most populous city, grapple with a rise in deadly gang violence, address criticism about a perceived lack of action in some cases and deal with several high-profile slayings that have strained resources.
Heading into 2019, however, the team’s new leader is revamping the unit by bringing in more members and launching a video analysis unit in an effort to solve more cases faster — changes that are needed if the city’s homicide figures stay around their current levels.
“I think 2019 will be a real decision-making year,” Insp. Hank Idsinga says in an interview at police headquarters. “If we’re going to keep a pace of 90-100 murders a year, we have to re-think how we’re staffing investigations.”
Toronto recorded 96 homicides in 2018, a figure that broke the record of 89 homicides in 1991.
About 70 per cent of those cases have been solved, Idsinga says, although that success is also an indicator of more work ahead for his team.
“That means about 70 cases will go before the courts, and that takes up a lot of manpower and time,” he says.
The force’s statistics indicate 51 of the year’s homicides were by shooting, 20 by stabbing, 10 were part of an April van attack and 15 were by “other means.”
The city’s police chief has attributed the overall rise in homicides to an increase in gang violence.
But the force has also noted that the city’s homicide figures have remained relatively stable in the years since 1991 even as the city’s population has grown considerably. Toronto boasted 2.3 million residents in 1991, compared to a population of 2.7 million as of the 2016 census.