Sewell: Cops spew gobbledygook on gun facts

By John Sewell –

Gun clubs have been chased out of the city by city council’s decision at the end of June, and that’s apparently a signal that our leaders think that something has to be done about guns.
It is difficult to argue with council’s intention, but much remains to be learned about the real world of guns in Toronto. If you turn to the Toronto police to learn about guns in the city, you’ll end up confused if not bamboozled. The police force has recently released its Statistical Report for 2007, and it is available on the police website, files/reports/2007statsreport.pdf
Scroll down to page pages 31 – 33 and you’ll learn about what the police think they know about guns. Charts on page 31-2 say 2,603 firearms were seized by the Toronto Police Service last year. More than half of these firearms were toys, air guns or rifles. About one third were seized in crime situations, the other in non-crime situations which are not specified. No information is given as to how many of these were registered, whether they came from private owners, gun clubs, dealers or the black market, or why they were seized. In short, it is hard to know whether seizing this number of guns is a problem or whether it isn’t. No information is given about whether any charges were laid as a result is these seizures.
On the basis of this information it is impossible to know whether stolen guns, or guns imported from United States, are a problem or not. An unidentified officer is quoted in a May 5 article in The National Post saying “More than 70% [of firearms seized by Toronto police] come from the U.S.” But this statistic is not included in the report, which means it may not be true. Another chart says 70 firearms (of which just 23 were shotguns or hand guns) were reported to the police last year as stolen. From where were they stolen? Were they properly stored? Were they registered? No information on these critical questions is provided.
Another chart says there were a total of “45 firearm thefts.” Neither chart says how this number relates to the 70 reported as stolen. Another chart says 70 stolen guns were recovered. Did the police really recover every gun that was stolen? That’s hard to believe, although if it were true, then there is no problem in Toronto of stolen guns. That same National Post story quotes the same police officer as saying that “about a quarter of the firearms seized by Toronto police turn out to be stolen from legal gun owners.” If that is to be believed, then about 650 of the 2,603 firearms seized were stolen from legal gun owners. That puts the number stolen at 10 times the number in this statistical report.
Let’s not beat around the bush: the information in the police Statistical Report is gobbledygook. It provides no assistance in telling the public what is happening about guns in Toronto. If you want to become totally disillusioned about the ability of the police to understand the gun situation, look at the 2007 Annual Report of the Toronto Police Service. It’s online at pdf

The chart on page 13 is titled “Mapping the missing link in gun crimes” and I challenge anyone to say what the chart means or what missing link it is talking about. The chart is absolutely bizarre. Any student who submitted this as an explanation of anything would have received a failing grade. The Toronto police force spends more than $800 million a year. Is this the kind of information on which it bases its decisions?