Brantford has seen a considerable uptick in illegal gun possession and gun violence since 2019 began, prompting the city police service to form a task force to tackle the problem.
Since January, Brantford Police Service reports that there have been 16 gun-related incidents, including the seizure of four loaded handguns and eight shooting incidents.
Seven people were victims of those shootings, one of which resulted in a death under investigation as a homicide. The victim, 37-year-old Gerald Male, was found in a William Street home on Friday, April 5. No arrests have been made in the murder case.
The major crime unit detectives investigating the gun violence in Brantford say the cases all have common factors.
“These incidents were not random criminal acts; the persons involved are believed to be entrenched within criminal and high-risk lifestyles, and in most cases were known to each other,” read a statement put out by Const. Shane Siebert, media officer for the Brantford Police Service. “Regardless, these incidents and the increased presence of guns in our city pose a significant risk to community safety.”
Just a few days after Male was murdered, Chief of Police Geoff Nelson formed the new task force to address the increased presence of guns and gun violence in Brantford, but with an eye towards collaboration and cooperation beyond its borders.
“This is not just a Toronto or Ottawa issue,” Nelson said. “Gun violence is an Ontario issue. The task force will not only focus on threats that exist within Brantford, it will work collaboratively with gun and gang task forces in other communities.”
Brantford Police Service will continue to work with community partners and stakeholders to develop and implement immediate and long-term strategies that will help enhance safety for everyone in the community.
“It is of great concern that a number of these incidents could have resulted in innocent bystanders being harmed,” Nelson said. “The creation of this task force was absolutely necessary. Elimination of gun violence in our city requires a properly resourced and specialized unit to focus its efforts exclusively on those individuals who pose a threat to the safety of our community. These individuals will have the full attention of the task force.”
As of Thursday, the police have added additional resources to the task force.
“The behaviour and utter disregard for community safety demonstrated by the persons responsible for gun violence within Brantford will not be tolerated,” said Inspector Scott Williams, who is in charge of investigative support. “All incidents will be investigated to the highest standard and degree.”
All 16 gun-related incidents in Brantford this year have involved individuals from Brantford, as well as persons connected to several other Ontario communities.
“Community safety is a responsibility we all share,” Siebert said. “The support of the community is essential for police to be effective in what they do.”
The Brantford Police Service is asking that anyone with information about criminal activity involving guns or other crimes of violence to call the task force tip line at 519-756-0113 ext. 2853, or email the task force at email@example.com.