HUNTER: National murder spike hides success of homicide detectives

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There was a merciful 24 days between the last homicide of 2020 and the first of this pandemic year of 2021.

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Sadly, murder did eventually show its hideous face.

The bloodshed kicked off on Jan. 13, at an apartment building on Eglinton Ave. E. around 5:10 p.m. when Mohamed Jeylani, 25, of Minnesota, was stabbed. He would die later in hospital.

On Jan. 19, Guled Mohamad, 24, of Toronto was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. The allegations are unproven as the case is before the courts.

But if they get a conviction, it will be another slam dunk for Toronto’s homicide squad.

Last week, Statistics Canada released its nationwide murder numbers for 2020. The bad news? There were 743 murders in Canada in 2020 — the most in nearly 30 years — and a 7% uptick from 2019.

But in the business of murder, slight drops and minor upticks are regular fare. There are seldom answers because the change in numbers is often so miniscule.

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In 2020, there was the mass murder in Nova Scotia that claimed the lives of 22 people at the hands of a homicidal maniac named Gabriel Wortman. The mental health pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic also moved the numbers upward.

Toronto Police homicide Insp. Hank Idsinga is pictured on Dec. 16, 2019.
Toronto Police homicide Insp. Hank Idsinga is pictured on Dec. 16, 2019. Photo by Ernest Doroszuk /Toronto Sun

Toronto Police Insp. Hank Idsinga acknowledged as much in an email to The Toronto Sun .

“I think if you take a look at our current stats — maybe merge them with the uptick in 2020 — we are definitely ahead of the pace for cases over 2020 and 2019,” Idsinga said.

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“The increase can be partially attributed to homicides where the alleged motive is driven by mental health issues.  If you remove those cases, really the other homicides [shootings] are holding fairly steady.”

Indeed.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had profound impacts on Canadian society since March 2020,” the Statistics Canada report said. “These marked societal and economic changes have contributed to a shift in crime patterns across Canada.”

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But the homicide rate is well below the numbers put on the board in the mid-1970s when bloodshed was far more common. And, 82% of the solved homicides were committed by someone the victim knew.

In 1975, with a population of 24.3 million, Canada had 700 murders for a homicide rate of 3.02 per 100,000 compared to 1.95 per 100,000 last year.

Western Canada has a significantly higher homicide rate than the east. The highest homicide rate in eastern Canada is in Hamilton and Steeltown is expected to repeat that feat in 2021. Already, the number of murders in 2021 (17) has matched last year’s tally — and there’s a month to go.

Hamilton Police Det. Sgt. Steve Bereziuk at the scene of a double murder in March. (Jack Boland, Toronto Sun)
Hamilton Police Det. Sgt. Steve Bereziuk at the scene of a double murder in March. (Jack Boland, Toronto Sun)

Hamilton Police Det.-Sgt. Steve Bereziuk of the major case unit acknowledged as much.

“We’re going to break last year’s record for sure,” Bereziuk told the Toronto Sun last week. “And every year, we’re left with the question, ‘Why.’ ”

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An epidemic of illegal guns, drugs, gangs, and mental health issues have played a starring role in the bloodshed in the Hammer.

And it’s also worth noting that the carnage in Canada — tragic in every sense — is a long, long way from U.S. levels of homicidal violence.

Toronto and Chicago have similar populations but the Windy City notched 764 murders (more than all of Canada) in 2020. Hamilton is similar in size to Milwaukee and had a record-breaking 17 murders in 2020.

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Milwaukee? Try 189 homicides.

In both Toronto and Hamilton, detectives have gotten very good at closing cases whereas most American cities of any size would be happy with hitting 50%.

Toronto cops are consistently closing murders at a rate of around 75-80%. In Hamilton, the closure rate is over 80%.

And that’s something that should make us all sleep a little bit easier.

bhunter@postmedia.com

@HunterTOSun

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