One of the main reasons Jane-Finch On The Move was formed was to change the media perception of our community. Bad enough that “Jane-Finch” had become a code word for “bad neighbourhood”, but it seemed that the only time the media noticed Jane-Finch was when something bad happened. And nothing got attention like a shooting.
When JFOTM held a neighbourhood forum in September 2007, we were surprised that various members of the media attended. As Chair, I had to deal with microphones and raised pencils. Why the turnout? There had been a shooting nearby only a few days earlier.
We would hold two more forums over the next year or so. Fortunately for the neighbourhood, there weren’t any shootings in the days beforehand. Unfortunately for us, no media appeared.
I mention this because I got an email from a friend and JFOTM member a few days ago. She now lives in the Lawrence Avenue West-Allen Road area (Lawerence Heights). She was concerned that there had been three shootings in her neighbourhood within the past few weeks, plus a neighbourhood man had been shot and killed while out in Hamilton.
I wanted more information, so I got to Googling. One of the shootings happened on Neptune Drive. Using “Neptune Drive”, I found a number of news accounts going back to 2007. This included the 2010 murder of a 16 year old boy who was killed by three other 16 year olds. A 46 year old man was shot when standing in the lobby of a Neptune Drive building last August.
When I changed the search to “Lawrence Heights”, most of the results were about the July 2014 shooting death of Abshir Hassan. He was a substitute teacher who died going out to move his car. Police reports indicated he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. This death made the front pages at the time.
How about all those other shootings? I found a Globe and Mail article titled “Toronto’s New Murder Capital”, which was about the spate of murders in an area that included this section of Lawrence Avenue. It was written in 2009.
The point is that while I knew Lawrence Heights was a “rough area”, I didn’t know it was like this. Back when Jane-Finch seemed to be a “Murder Capital”, every death made the front pages.
Now it’s only newsworthy if the victim is very young, or is “not targeted.” Otherwise, it gets stunted to the back pages, if mentioned at all.
Does this mean we are getting used to gun violence? Does this mean we are willing to let select areas of our city slowly drift into a lawless state where bullets rule and people cower in fear?
Toronto is still seen as one of the safest cities in the world, with The Economist calling us Number One. I guess it’s all relative. How safe does my friend feel living near Neptune Drive?
There are no easy solutions to the scourge of gun violence. This shouldn’t mean we give up trying.