A Week of Violence – The Situation and Solutions

Brantford’s Mayor Speaks

“It makes me angry. Our peaceable community is not used to this kind of violence and crime, and we have to deal with it...It’s alarming. A real concern to me.”

Kevin Davis, Mayor of Brantford

In the wake of a week that saw three violent incidents, Brantford’s Mayor, Kevin Davis, speaks to the route of the problem and discusses current and future measures being taken to battle these crimes and reduce the level of violence in our community.

On Monday, October 7th, Brantford Police responded to a home invasion robbery on Sarah Street during which gun shots were fired. Two suspects were found and arrested. A third suspect is still at large. The following evening, Tuesday, October 8th, police responded to another violent home invasion on Colborne Street downtown. Three suspects were located and arrested following that incident. In the early morning hours of Friday, October 11th, a shooting occurred on Colborne Street downtown, followed by a high speed chase out of town to the 403. One victim was treated for a non-life threatening gun shot wound as a result of that incident.

“Much of it is coming from out of town. Almost all of it is related to the drug trade and gangs coming out of the GTA. Some of it is local, but most of it, in my opinion, has to do with the drug trade.”

Kevin Davis, Brantford Mayor

According to monthly statistics received and reviewed by Brantford’s Police Services Board, the rise in gun related crime began late 2018 and has continued throughout this year. Davis offers some theory behind the timing of the recent rise.

“The local jail closed approximately a year and a half ago. Until that time, the local criminal element was held here. For the last year and a half, those awaiting trial end up in the Milton Region Detention Centre, and there they’re networking with criminals and gangs. That theory was explained to me by someone who works in the criminal justice system and it makes sense to me.”

“That’s part of what’s happening.”

“Part of it as well is increased problems with drug use. Much of it is connected to that. It’s drug deals gone bad. And we can say to ourselves, it’s only those involved in that trade who are exposed. No. There is the possibility of innocent victims and that makes me very concerned.”

Kevin Davis, Brantford Mayor

Davis explains, in his opinion, the solution to the growing concern, is a multi-level, long term, and possibly costly approach.

“I think what it boils down to is all levels of government need to do more. For us locally, I have a pretty clear idea of what we need to do but I have to tell our citizens, it’s going to cost more money. Those things do not come without a cost attached. We either provide less to other services, or pay more taxes. You do more, you have to pay more.”

Kevin Davis, Brantford Mayor

Brantford Police Services began to take notice and action early this year with the creation of their Guns and Gangs Task Force. Davis says, that task force has been very effective as there have been many arrests along with large drug and gun seizures.

“When we’re taking down these bad people, when the police are arresting them, it’s not a pretty sight, it usually involves a SWAT team and it is alarming.”

“We’re not used to it, and I hope we never get used to it.”

“But that is our police service doing what we want them to do which is to protect us. To some degree, we need to be a little tougher because we’re going to see that now from time to time. We don’t need to totally panic about it. It means the police are doing their job.”

Kevin Davis, Brantford Mayor

However, if that task force is to continue, they will require funds from the provincial government. An application for a ‘guns and gangs’ grant has been completed, and Davis says, he is optimistic it will be received and will know results within the next several weeks.

The Brantford Police Services Board will also be discussing the possibility of adopting a different approach to dispatching, called Community Based Policing. This approach divides the city into zones to which specific officers are assigned. The officers get to know their zone, therefore becoming more pro-active. The theory being, those officers observe trends and get to know the people.

The OPP have also been participating in Brantford Police investigations, as well as other police services across the province, more frequently. Davis notes, this coordinated response is important because many criminals come from out of town and the gangs involved operate across Southern Ontario.

“Another thing locally is what we’re doing with our drug strategy to reduce the use in our community.”

“It is very hard to do something like that overnight. The strategy we’re using will see results over the next two to four years. It’s a longer term solution.”

“We have to do more with youth intervention programs, especially for young males, to lead them into a more productive life path rather than getting pulled into the drug trade or drug usage. We’re doing a pretty good job of that through our community hubs. I think we need to do more. Over the course of time, fewer people getting involved in drug use, really means fewer people getting involved in drug related and gun related crime.”

Kevin Davis, Brantford Mayor

Davis adds, he feels the federal government’s participation is what’s missing in the solution. The federal government has control over the criminal system.

“I’ve been reluctant to speak out about it in the middle of a federal election campaign, and that’s the problem. The whole issue of gun-related crime has become so politicized and positions are being taken that are ideological in nature.”

“I think what we need is some common sense. We need the federal government to step up and help us. Tougher bail laws. If someone is a repeat gun offender – no bail. If someone is a gun trafficker – no bail. Bail is too easy to obtain. The federal government can tighten those rules up. The judges just enforce the rules given them.
We need tougher sentencing for gun related crime.”

Kevin Davis, Brantford Mayor

A proposed minimum sentence for gun related crime was proposed and struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2015. Currently, judges are generally handing out stiffer penalties, however there is not a mandatory minimum, which Davis feels would be a deterrent.

In addition, Davis says, tighter control of what’s flowing over the border is required even if it results in longer lines at customs.

“It may not be very popular politically, but I think that’s what’s needed to protect our communities.

“The last thing, and this is really controversial, banning hand guns.”

Kevin Davis, Brantford Mayor

Data shows, 10 to 40 percent of the guns used in crime are legal guns, either stolen from a gun shop, collector or straw purchases (made by an individual with a clean criminal record and a valid license).

“My view is in Canada we should have zero tolerance for hand guns. The only reason to have a hand gun is for sports shooting targets or for killing or maiming people. If you’re going to have really tough gun related crime laws, I think hand in hand with that is a ban on hand guns.”

“We know that’s happening. I agree it’s a small part of the guns on the street, but if it is 10 percent, then get that 10 percent off the street.”

Kevin Davis, Brantford Mayor

Despite the challenges and work ahead, Davis offers Brantford residents words of assurance, perspective and hope.

“We’re a tough and resilient community. We’ve gone through tough times here. Back in the 80’s and the collapse of the farm implement industry, back during the world wars we as a community contributed more to the war effort per population than almost any other community in Canada. We have a proud history of being tough, resilient, innovative, and dealing with the problems we have head on.”

Kevin Davis, Brantford Mayor