There is a gun problem in London, Ontario. A place that was once called "the serial killer capital of the world" has seen an unwavering increase in gun violence since 2014. Debates regarding gun control have intensified in the wake of recent mass shootings in North America, and the statistics raise valid points for why the conversation needs to happen right here in the Forest City.
In 2016, there was an increase in both aggravated assault and, you guessed it, gun offences. The London area, which includes St. Thomas, Strathroy and surrounding OPP-policed municipalities, ranked 13th among 33 Canadian metropolitan areas in terms of severe crime. Out of those 13 cities, London is the 2nd highest in Ontario.
Just last week, London Police seized guns, ammunition, a bulletproof vest and drugs valued at more than $109,000 from a London home.
The raid is one of several gun-related incidents that have plagued London in the past few months. In a stretch of six days in early October, there were four crimes of gun violence. According to the London Free Press, the following incidents took place between Oct. 9 and 14:
- A man armed with a gun robbed a Dundas Street gas station in London on Saturday before fleeing in a Corvette reported stolen that was later tracked to an east-end parking lot, where police arrested the suspect leaving a nearby strip club.
- Three days earlier, the OPP seized a loaded handgun and cocaine after they spotted a London man with a gas container walking across six lanes of traffic on the Highway 401, just east of the city.
- On Oct. 10, a group of suspects, one of them armed with a gun, stole a car from a Mornington Avenue apartment during a home invasion. Niagara police arrested four people, including a 13-year-old the next day, after the car crashed on the Queen Elizabeth Parkway in St. Catharines.
- On Thanksgiving, two roommates said a man with what appeared to be a handgun tucked into his waistband broke into their Thurman Circle home, near Fanshawe College, and stole cash, clothing and electronics. When the residents went outside to confront the fleeing suspect, they were attacked by a waiting mob of young men.
Along with the increase in gun crime in London, robbery and assault statistics have also shown a steady increase. The general trend here is that violent crime decreased from 2010 to 2013, but has steadily risen ever since.
Gun violence in London is happening almost daily. On Dec. 6, a 31-year old London man was charged with attempted murder in connection with a shooting at an after-hours party on Nixon Avenue. The victim is in critical condition in a London hospital.
Even so, London Police still say it's too early to assume that increasing crime rates is a sign that more illegal weapons are hitting the street. But the underlying numbers are hard to ignore.
"LONDON POLICE SEIZED 70 FIREARMS BETWEEN JAN. 1 AND JUNE 30."
According to research done by Toronto based law firm O'Neill Moon Quedado LLP, there were 237 crimes involving weapons in London in 2011. This number jumped to 280 in 2013, and reached 331 in 2015.