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Racial profiling to end Toronto gun violence?
August 16, 2005 2:11 PM   Subscribe

Racial profiling to end Toronto gun violence? Michael Thompson, a black city councillor, says police should be allowed to "target" young black men at random as part of a crackdown on guns. The mayor, police, and public collectively go, "Whaaaa!?"
posted by Robot Johnny (31 comments total)

 
Mr. Thompson, who is black, said a large percentage of the guns being used and a large number of people being killed are in the black community, so there is a need to target people in the community.

Anyone have stats on the race-to-gun-ownership relationship in Toronto?
posted by dhoyt at 2:34 PM on August 16, 2005


"Anyone have stats on the race-to-gun-ownership relationship in Toronto?"

Anyone have stats on the race-to-crimes involving guns relationship in Toronto?
posted by MikeMc at 2:39 PM on August 16, 2005


I haven't located the Canadian crime reports, but the FBI Crime Reports show that roughly 50% of all violent crime in the United States is perpetrated by African Americans, who make up 12% of the population.

And, most violent crime, included rape, murder, and armed robbery, is commited between 19 - 29 years old.

To overlay the poverty demographic may tell us something, and I believe more harm than good comes from profiling, but the terrible violence must be confronted some way, and I don't know if more WIC is going to solve it.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 2:39 PM on August 16, 2005


Good thing he wasn't white and saying this or he'd have already been shouted down and into a dark corner of his basement as a racist. Funny how that works.

And, to paraphrase Archie Bunker in regards to death by gun violence "Would it make you feel better if they got stabbed to death instead?"

I never understood the tendency to focus on the manner of murder taking place and not the actual murder taking place. The victim's still dead either way.
posted by fenriq at 2:43 PM on August 16, 2005


Wow, Thompson ain't the brightest bulb in the bunch.

Racial/gender/ethnic/age based profiling is used everyday by every cop in the world. Mailboxes destroyed, look for the 14-18 year old male in a group... serial killer, white guy 30-45... murder by poison, woman... synagogue firebombed, white guy with short hair and tattoos. There are always exceptions but you have to start someplace.

Investigation is always based on a series of suppositions, usually reliant on Occam's Razor, in the hope that what has happened before will happen again. This has far less to do with race than it has to do with simple demographics and statistics. However, it is political suicide to make profiling a matter of policy and race alone is not enough of an indicator.
posted by cedar at 2:47 PM on August 16, 2005


fenriq, I'd say that it's because it's a hell of a lot easier to kill someone with a gun than with a knife, and it's a hell of a lot easier to regulate gun possession than knife possession.
posted by goatdog at 2:52 PM on August 16, 2005


"I haven't located the Canadian crime reports, but the FBI Crime Reports show that roughly 50% of all violent crime in the United States is perpetrated by African Americans, who make up 12% of the population."


AFAIK Canada does not break crime statistics down by race as the FBI does here in the U.S. so a racial profiling policy would by based pretty much on anecdotal evidence.
posted by MikeMc at 2:54 PM on August 16, 2005


goatdog, have you ever tried to stab someone to death with a pistol? It is damned hard work.

Yes, just kidding. I'd suspected as much, we're busy people, we can't be bothered to actually walk up to someone and stab them ten times or so. Its so much easier to drive by their house, roll down the window and squeeze a trigger a few times.

cedar, yeah, I'm sure cops on the street profile, they have to. But they can't really talk about it publicly or they find themselves out of work quickly. This councilman is going to find out damned quickly just how fast he can find himself out of a job, I think.
posted by fenriq at 2:59 PM on August 16, 2005


Jeesh, a report about racial profiling just came out a few months ago... it was about Kitchener but I wouldn't be surprised if the situation was similar in Toronto.

Police stop more blacks, Ont. study finds. The report said police in this mostly white eastern Ontario city were 3.7 times as likely to stop a black person as a Caucasian, and 1.4 times more likely to stop an aboriginal than a white person.
posted by bobo123 at 3:32 PM on August 16, 2005


According to Wikipedia, half of all Black Canadians live in Toronto, and they constitute around 8.3% of the population. I grew up in Kitchener, and the whiteness of that city is evident enough that a visiting friend actually remarked, "where are all your black people?"
posted by Robot Johnny at 3:58 PM on August 16, 2005


Kitchener? You mean Kingston of course.
posted by loquax at 4:11 PM on August 16, 2005


Kitchener? You mean Kingston of course.

Whoops. Got them mixed up for some reason.
posted by bobo123 at 4:30 PM on August 16, 2005


fenriq, many years ago I read a Scientific American article, in some depth, on murder and weapons. I clearly remember it claiming that all other things being equal, a person armed with a gun was more likely to use it than a person armed with knife. In the event of violence, attacks with a gun were more likely to be fatal. I realise that my memory of some article somewhere does not consitute evidence, but there you are. That's why the focus on means of murder as well as the end.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:38 PM on August 16, 2005


Toronto has actually been banned from compiling race-related crime statistics since 1989, since Julian Fantino wrote a report which suggested that blacks from a particular region were committing a disproportionately large number of crimes.

Unfortunately, it seems that crime stats older than this are only available in hard copy.
posted by mosch at 4:48 PM on August 16, 2005


I clearly remember it claiming that all other things being equal, a person armed with a gun was more likely to use it than a person armed with knife.

This makes perfect sense. To someone inexperienced with gunshot wounds, combat or the threat of being shot there is a certain detachment involved with pointing a gun and pulling the trigger. I don't think very many people have any idea of the toll a bullet traveling through the human body takes. We have grown up watching movies and television shows where the good guy gets shot three times, wraps his wounds with strips torn from his shirt and rappels down a cliff (clutching his wounded arm the whole time) to wreak havoc on the bad guys.

On the other hand, we are all familiar with the effects of sharp objects on flesh. Knives don't allow for any detachment, the cause and effect is clear to anyone who has ever cut themselves doing dishes or stepped on a piece of glass. There is also the part where your target has to be in arms length and that arm thing is a two way street.
posted by cedar at 4:59 PM on August 16, 2005


Councillor Thompson is concentrating on the wrong thing. Most violent crimes are committed by males. Therefore, all men should be targeted.

Alternately, deport them all to Newfoundland.
posted by QIbHom at 5:09 PM on August 16, 2005


Wait - as a former Michigan-American, I seem to recall Michael Moore telling me that there were no shooting deaths in Canada, in spite of a fondness for guns.

Oh wait - "In 1991, when I began this journey, there were 1,444 gun deaths and in 2001 there were 842."
posted by Jazznoisehere at 5:24 PM on August 16, 2005


QIbHom, can you deport someone to another province?

But, no worries. Down here we have entire states sitting damn near empty. Most of these states are empty for a good reason and would welcome an influx of ambitious young gun-wielding Canadians.
posted by cedar at 5:32 PM on August 16, 2005


I think it's the closing, cedar. If I threaten you with a knife, I have to risk getting close to you to use it. No need to close with a gun.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:11 PM on August 16, 2005


As for the knife:gun thing, another reason they care about how a person was killed is that innocent people / bystanders have been killed... not so easy with a knife.
posted by dobbs at 6:32 PM on August 16, 2005


What we need to do is get some more serious screening going for guns in cars that cross the border into Canada at the checkpoints near Toronto.

All these handguns have to be coming from somewhere, and frankly it's not likely to be other places in Canada.
posted by clevershark at 6:45 PM on August 16, 2005


Wait - as a former Michigan-American, I seem to recall Michael Moore telling me that there were no shooting deaths in Canada, in spite of a fondness for guns.

yeah, and in the same breath, i remember him telling there is no racism in canada and how everybody in toronto leaves their doors unlocked?
posted by 3.2.3 at 7:21 PM on August 16, 2005


Yeah, Michael Moore could blow smoke up your ass from across the room.
posted by puke & cry at 7:29 PM on August 16, 2005


I also remember your president saying something about how there were endless stockpiles of WMDs in Iraq.
posted by clevershark at 7:30 PM on August 16, 2005


Gun violence is political tinder in Toronto right now, so I suspect the councillor was just trying to earn some points by making a 'bold call for action' (even if it was misguided).

There was a map in Saturday's Star showing the locations of shootings in Toronto over the last twenty years, with area property values shown in colour. (I can't find the graphic online). Nearly all the dots fell on the poor blue band that stretches from Jane and Finch in the North-East to downtown, and back up to Scarborough in the North-West, leaving the rich yellow areas shooting free. If there's a correlation between black people and gun violence, it's that they both live in poverty ridden neighborhoods, and that's something that calls for action.
posted by Popular Ethics at 8:00 PM on August 16, 2005


Popular Ethics has it.

For those on the Michael Moore derail, the murder by firearm rate in Canada in 1999 was 0.00 per 1000, which, of course, isn't the same as saying as saying there are no gun deaths, but obviously it's pretty low (less than 0.01 per 1000).

Moore used Canada as a foil for the U.S. He exaggerated, but for the most part, there is a significant difference in gun-related crime between the U.S. and Canada.
posted by carmen at 9:01 PM on August 16, 2005


So if I move to Toronto from the US, am I allowed to take my guns with me? Can I just register them? I'm not black, if that helps.
posted by Balisong at 9:19 PM on August 16, 2005


I haven't located the Canadian crime reports, but the FBI Crime Reports show that roughly 50% of all violent crime in the United States is perpetrated by African Americans, who make up 12% of the population.

Indeed, and roughly 50% of all violent crime victims are African Americans, as well. Most of the violence happens within the community, which is why there is sometimes a disconnect between black voters and the Democrats they support (a formula I assume holds in Canada with the NDP).

In this case, the quote is actually so limited in detail I'm amazed it's become such a kerfuffle. Clearly Thompson is speaking less out of (say) racism than a sheer ignorance of both the law and effective methods of law enforcement. He's probably calling for something akin to drug roadblocks (which are legal in the US), but for guns, with the idea that the point is to get the guns out of the community -- but there are all sorts of reasons that wouldn't work (not the least is that people don't necessarily traipse around with their firearms on them). In fact, I know of two instances here in my boondocky town where guns were stored away until needed.

Not a rap on TJH; I just think these stats need to be mentioned together, as they go hand in hand.
posted by dhartung at 12:50 AM on August 17, 2005


Please stop writing "I can't find Canadian crime statistics, so I'll just use American ones," which is what several posters to this thread are doing. American crime statistics are inapplicable to other countries.
posted by joeclark at 11:46 AM on August 17, 2005


He's probably calling for something akin to drug roadblocks (which are legal in the US)

You are mistaken. It happens all the time, but it's not legal.
posted by delmoi at 11:46 AM on August 18, 2005


And look, if you want to avoid getting shot, all you have to do is avoid hanging out with gun-toting gang bangers. I realize that people are ocasionaly shot by mistake, or whatever, but I think that's pretty rare, even in the "hood".
posted by delmoi at 11:48 AM on August 18, 2005


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