How Safe is Toronto, Really? The Christine Cowern Team

| Communities

If you live in Toronto you might be asking yourself if Toronto is a safe place to live with the recent onslaught of growing violence in our city. We get it, we live here too, so we’d like to help put things in perspective with a look at what’s happening today, how violence has looked in the past and how we compare with other cities in Canada and across North America as well as right here in our own backyard.

Toronto the Good

Toronto the Good is a nickname that strikes a note of rue Canadian pride in those of us who call the city home. It feels good to know we live in the hub of our country, a large city comparatively speaking, where violence and crime never seemed to be on anyone’s mind. Today, apparently, we’ve seen more shootings and murders than NYC for 2018, a mind-boggling reality for just about anyone who has ever called Toronto home.

Is Toronto a safe city? According to a recent post on BlogTO, University of Toronto Associate Professor of Criminology Scot Wortley, says that Toronto has a current crime rate of 1.67 per 100,000 people which is slightly higher than New York City’s rate of 1.51.

According to Global News, there’ve been 233 shootings so far in 2018 with 30 gun homicides. Shootings are up 10 per cent from last year and 124 per cent from 2014, according to police data. But is this reason for us to be running scared?

We can look at Toronto’s safety history and see that in 2005, “the year of the gun” 87 per cent of Torontonians polled said they felt the city had become more violent (there were 80 murders in Toronto that year, 52 by gun). This year 88 per cent feel Toronto is getting more violent, BUT 80 per cent still say they feel safe overall in Toronto.

As well, perception is important because although in 2017 Toronto had the most murders, our average homicide rate was lower than the deadliest city, Thunder Bay at a rate of 5.8 and Vancouver’s suburbs of Abbotsford and Mission at 4.72. We’ve got a whopping 2.82 million people living here, so our murder counts are always going to appear higher if not looked at with the right considerations!

Who’s Affected?

We think it’s important to consider who’s affected by the murders occurring in our streets. Back in July Mayor John Tory told radio station CFRB that most murders are related to “a very complicated network of gangs in the city.” He also says that 75 per cent of Toronto murders are gang-related. Should this make us feel any safer? Yes and no.

What this shows is that for the most part, those being targeted in gun violence are gang members. But we’ve got to consider the possibility of innocent bystanders being caught in the crossfire. We’ve seen two young sisters shot and thankfully not killed in a Scarborough park this summer as well as two men gunned down in the city’s downtown core. We’ve also seen tragic killings at the hands of individuals both struggling with mental illness first by a van in North York, and more recently a mass shooting that took the lives of two young girls on the Danforth.

When you add to these events, the horrors unveiled with the discovery of serial killer Bruce McArthur who has shocked people not only in the gay community but throughout Toronto it does make Toronto appear unsafe indeed. But again, we’ve got to keep things in perspective and remember that when it comes to killings of this scale, Toronto has seen very few mass killings in its history, with only three serial killers of note and most mass slayings in recent history taking place in other provinces.

Unfortunately, the majority of shootings we’ve seen of late seem to be in open public spaces which is why we might not feel as safe as we once did. It might make you feel a little better knowing that the Toronto Police Department has raised police presence in the downtown core to help reduce the potential risk of crime and to increase a feeling of public safety where there is the largest concentration of people.

So, what does all this mean when it comes to safety in the city?

The Safest Cities in Canada

First, it’s interesting to note that Toronto was rated the safest city in North America just last year by The Economist. In fact, it was the only Canadian city to make the list at all. Although the survey takes into consideration several safety factors including digital, health, infrastructure and personal security, it still shows us as number one.

Second, Canada uses two things to measure safety: The Crime Severity Index (CSI) and the crime rate. Maclean Magazine’s Most Dangerous Cities for 2018 shows Toronto’s CSI at 59 compared to the most dangerous city, North Battleford which has a ranking of 353. That’s quite a difference. When we look at major cities, Vancouver is at 114, Calgary is at 74, Montreal is at 72, Edmonton and Winnipeg are at 118, Regina is 132, etc. So, you can see we’re sitting pretty when we compare ourselves to other Canadian cities.

When we look at other Ontario cities, we’re still miles below the highest CSI of 122 in Temiskaming and listed as the 29th most dangerous on Ontario’s list of 85 cities which still ain’t so bad. If you still aren’t feeling so confident, let’s look at where we rank in the world.

Safe Travel Around The City

A good measure to use when it comes to safety is to look at how Toronto is ranked when it comes to travel around the city. On the website SafeAround, Toronto’s safety ranking is 81 per cent safe and is also mentioned as the eighth safest city in the world for travel. Of course, travel safety gauges several different factors including the chance of a natural disaster, but in general violence and crime are number one concerns for tourists.

Toronto’s Safest Neighbourhoods

There’s a clear pattern that the safest neighbourhoods in Toronto tend to also be the most expensive with these high-income areas topping the list:

  1. Forest Hill South
  2. Bridle Path
  3. Bayview Woods – Steeles
  4. Lawrence Park North
  5. Steeles
  6. Lawrence Park South
  7. Yonge and St. Clair
  8. Leaside-Bennington
  9. Bayview Village
  10. Agincourt North 

The truth of the matter is, there’s never a guarantee any area will always be completely safe. Crime can happen at any time, in any place and to any person. However, when all the facts are taken into consideration, the answer to the question is Toronto really safe the answer generally is yes.