Ontario Reaches Milestone In Guns And Gangs Fight



    
    McGuinty Government Guns And Gangs Results: 450 Arrests, 3500 Charges
    Laid
    

    TORONTO, Feb. 26 /CNW/ -

    NEWS

    Having police, Crown attorneys and other justice professionals working
together under one roof is making a measurable difference in the fight against
crime.
    Now two years old, the Guns and Gangs Operations Centre, a
groundbreaking, state-of-the-art facility dedicated to the investigation of
gun and gang crimes, continues to deliver measurable results, including 11
major guns and gangs investigations and prosecutions involving hundreds of
thousands of intercepted telephone calls, over 450 arrests and over 3,500
charges laid.
    The centre officially began operations on February 28, 2007, putting over
270 police, prosecutors, court, victim and parole workers under one roof with
the latest in crime-fighting technology to improve Ontario's effort to get
guns and gangs off our streets.
    To build on the success of the centre and its coordinated crime-fighting
model, police and Crowns are working together to provide additional
information on repeat violent offenders to an Exit Point Taskforce of Crown
attorneys specializing in the bail, sentencing, and post-sentence exit points
of the justice system to keep repeat violent offenders off our streets.

    QUOTES

    "We are working in collaboration and cooperation with our justice
partners like never before and Ontario communities are safer as a result.
We're bringing police and prosecutors together and giving them the tools they
need to get criminals off our streets. Together we form a united front against
violent crimes."
    - Chris Bentley, Attorney General

    "The Guns and Gangs Operations Centre is a great example of an innovative
approach to community safety that is helping to make our communities safer and
stronger. We're building on that spirit of partnership to strengthen public
protection even further."
    - Rick Bartolucci, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services

    "The Toronto Police Service is benefiting from easier access to the
expertise of specialized prosecutors through initiatives such as the Exit
Point Task Force and Major Case Crowns. Ultimately, it is Toronto citizens who
benefit the most from a coordinated approach to fighting crime."
    - William Blair, Toronto Chief of Police

    "Coordinating our efforts and sharing information and expertise is a
great way to step up our fight against violent criminals. We are determined to
make Ontario communities safer for law abiding citizens."
    - Julian Fantino, Commissioner of the OPP

    
    QUICK FACTS

    -   By working together in the Operations Centre, police and Crown
        attorneys can disrupt criminal networks faster by shrinking the time
        it takes to get things done - in one case, their collaboration
        resulted in an extensive wiretap application being prepared in a
        quarter of the time.

    -   Police and Crown collaboration through the Operations Centre has
        resulted in more focused charges, improving the prospect of
        conviction with less delay. For example, one project before the
        Operations Centre saw 1,276 charges pressed against 57 people,
        whereas an Operations Centre-led project resulted in 114 arrests with
        350 charges.

    -   According to Statistics Canada, Ontario's crime rate has declined
        every year since 2004. In the most recent reporting year, Ontario's
        overall crime rate dropped by nine per cent including a four per cent
        percent decrease in the violent crime rate.

    LEARN MORE

    Learn more about the Guns and Gangs Operations Centre
    (http://www.premier.gov.on.ca/news/Product.asp?ProductID=985&Lang=EN).

    Read the report   
(http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/pubs/lesage_code/)
    written by Mr. LeSage and Professor Code on large and complex criminal
    case procedures.

    Learn more about the Justice on Target
    (http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/jot/) strategy.


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                                                      ontario.ca/safety-news
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    BACKGROUNDER
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                   A HISTORY OF COORDINATED CRIME FIGHTING

    

    The McGuinty government and its justice partners, including police
leaders, are working to keep Ontarians safe by forming a united front to
combat violence. This collaboration has grown as the government and its
partners build on lessons learned, and find new ways of working better
together to strengthen public protection.
    January 2004 - The first "Guns and Gangs Crown" - a Crown attorney is
assigned to work directly with Toronto Police Service to provide expertise in
the investigation and prosecution of guns and gang-related cases.
    October 2005 - The government expands the Guns and Gangs Task Force by
adding 26 experienced police officers and 32 additional Crown attorneys to
work exclusively on gun and gang cases.
    January 2006 - Funding for Guns and Gangs Operations Centre and TAVIS -
The government announces a $51 million strategy to combat gun crime including
the addition of 31 gun and gang prosecutors, bringing the number of Crowns on
the Guns and Gangs Task Force to 64, and including the establishment of major
crime courtrooms and $26 million to create a new, state-of-the-art Operations
Centre for the Guns and Gangs Task Force.
    This funding also included $5 million in immediate funding for Toronto
police to establish the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) as
the Guns and Gangs Task Force's "on-the-ground" presence in high-priority
neighbourhoods. This funding has since grown to $17 million to provide
surveillance cameras in high-risk areas and four rapid response teams each
consisting of 18 highly trained police officers, specializing in drugs and
guns interdiction. These officers also make community contacts to get at-risk
neighbourhoods on the right track.
    As of October 31, 2008, TAVIS has seen tremendous results, including
close to 13,000 arrests, the seizure of more than 600 firearms and more than
68,300 business and nearly 141,000 community contacts.
    May 2006 - Provincial Expansion of Guns and Gangs Task Force - The
government announces the deployment of specialized anti-gun and gang Crowns to
all six regions in the province. An Information Technology Crown prosecutor
and Crown policy specialist are also appointed to support gun and gang-related
prosecutions province-wide.
    September 2006 - Inter-provincial Organized Justice Agreement - The
Attorneys General of Québec, Ontario and Manitoba announce the signing of an
inter-provincial agreement to combat organized crime through better sharing of
prosecutorial expertise. Justice officials from the three provinces agree to
hold annual forums to share successes and lessons learned based on major
prosecutions.
    December 2006 - Major Crime Courts - The first major crime court is
unveiled at 361 University Avenue in Toronto, including extra security
measures, a prisoner box that can accommodate multiple accused and larger jury
boxes. A second major crime court at 2201 Finch Avenue West in Toronto begins
operating in late 2007.
    February 2007 - Opening of the Guns and Gangs Operations Centre - The
Centre begins operating at an undisclosed location in the Greater Toronto
Area. It houses approximately 270 full-time dedicated staff including police,
Crown prosecutors, victim and witness support workers, and probation and
parole officers. The Centre is the first of its kind in Canada and is equipped
with the latest technology in forensic testing.
    This cooperative crime-fighting model cuts the time needed to
investigate, find, charge and prosecute those responsible for gun and gang
related crime - in one case, collaboration resulted in an extensive wiretap
application being prepared in a quarter of the time.
    To date, Guns and Gangs Task Force Crowns have been involved in 11 major
crime prosecutions involving over 450 arrests and over 3,500 charges laid.

    June 2007 - Expanded Guns and Gangs and Anti-Violence Intervention
Program - The government announces $12 million in funding to further combat
guns and gangs, organized crime and illegal drugs in Ontario, including $6.3
million to expand the guns and gangs Provincial Anti-Violence Intervention
Strategy (PAVIS) program to several communities outside of Toronto.
    July 2007 - Anti-Gun Smuggling Investments - The government announces
funding for 200 new OPP officers, including 53 officers for the OPP-led
Provincial Weapons Enforcement Unit (PWEU) dedicated to combating illegal
guns, and six new anti-gun smuggling Crown attorneys to better track,
investigate and stem the flow of handguns and restricted guns across the
province.
    In 2008 PWEU seized 659 weapons and laid 1,037 weapons-related charges
province-wide.
    June 2008 - Justice on Target - The government announces a four-year
Justice on Target strategy to further improve public safety by building on the
model of collaboration to ensure justice participants work together to make
the most effective use of justice system resources. The strategy includes a
target to reduce time to trial and number of appearances by 30 per cent, by:

    
    -   Focusing more justice system resources on the most serious and
        violent cases, particularly those involving repeat violent offenders
    -   Minimizing the risk of charges being stayed due to delay
    -   Reducing the time spent by police officers in court and increasing
        their time on the streets, keeping our communities safe.

    Progress is being measured and reported online at
    http://www.ontario.ca/justiceontarget.
    

    September 2008 - Inter-provincial Justice Effectiveness Agreement -
Ontario's Justice on Target strategy fuels a joint effort to help strengthen
criminal justice systems across Canada. At a meeting of
federal/provincial/territorial justice ministers in Québec City, Attorneys
General commit to share information and best practices based on their own
experiences in administering criminal justice.
    November 2008 - Major Case Advisory Crowns - The government announces
Major Case Crown attorneys to be embedded in police stations, an innovative
model of police-prosecution collaboration that focuses on the pre-charge
advisory stage of large and complex cases, starting in Toronto, Peel Region,
Niagara Region, Ottawa, and Windsor.
    November 2008 - Exit Point Task Force - The government announces
specialized senior Crown attorneys who will provide advice to Crown
prosecutors across Ontario at the main "exit points" of the justice system -
bail, sentencing, and post-sentence, and to help ensure additional support is
provided at every stage to keep repeat violent offenders off our streets.
    A working group involving representatives from eight police agencies and
officials from the Ministries of the Attorney General and Community Safety and
Correctional Services has begun meeting regularly to find additional ways to
address the issue of repeat violent offenders.

    
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                                             ontario.ca/attorneygeneral-news
                                                      ontario.ca/safety-news
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For further information:

For further information: Sheamus Murphy, Ministry of the Attorney
General, Minister's Office, (416) 326-1785; Laura Blondeau, Ministry of
Community Safety and Correctional Services, Minister's Office, (416) 325-4973;
Brendan Crawley, Ministry of the Attorney General, Communications Branch,
(416) 326-2210; Anthony Brown, Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional
Services, Communications Branch, (416) 314-7772

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