The Windsor Police Service is reassigning officers and joining forces with other agencies to escalate the fight against criminals and illegal guns coming into the city from other jurisdictions.
“Co-ordinated and lead by the OPP, we’re working jointly with police services across Ontario to deal with illegal weapons offenses and gang-related activity,” said Jason Bellaire, Windsor’s acting police chief. “Police officers within the service will be working with a specific focus on the multi-jurisdictional nature of these crimes. It’s not unusual for us to have individuals involved in shooting incidents that aren’t from the Windsor-Essex area. Working in an integrated fashion along with other police services is a better way to both provide and share information, and facilitate multi-jurisdictional investigations.”
Bellaire said the initiative will not affect the service’s budget because Windsor is receiving a share of funding the province promised in November to stop gun violence. The province announced it will invest $75 million over three years to fight crime and violence related to guns and gangs.
As a police service it’s not something we want to have in our city
One of the priorities will be stemming the flow of guns coming from the US, a longstanding issue in border towns such as Windsor.
“We continue to seize crime guns that are manufactured in the United States and we continue to work with our US partners to trace the point of sale of these firearms through our provincial collaboration,” said Bellaire. “This partnership allows for multi-jurisdictional investigations in both countries with the aim of reducing illegal firearms trafficking and firearms violence.”
Premier Doug Ford said funding will also be used to help with firearm analysis and tracing to stop gun smugglers, and create the Office of Illicit Drug Intelligence to prevent drugs from coming into the province.
Windsor’s newly assigned group of officers will operate under the same umbrella as the service’s Drugs, Intelligence, Gangs and Surveillance (DIGS) unit, created in 2007, but will also work with other law enforcement agencies.
Bellaire wouldn’t say how many officers will be dedicated to the new initiatives.
He did say that along with targeting gun crimes and those who perpetrate them, the officers will focus on squeezing off the supply of firearms coming to Windsor before they can be used.
“We don’t have a gun factory in Windsor,” he said. “Those firearms have to come from somewhere. We don’t have multiple firearms stores that people are getting them from. We have to deal with the illicit trafficking of firearms as well as the criminal activity associated with the illegal use of firearms.”
Since the beginning of March, Windsor police have responded to 11 reports of shots fired, but not all of them have been confirmed.
“The conclusion if there were shots fired is based on the evidence, whether someone has been struck by a round, or we find evidence of a firearm being discharged at the scene,” said Bellaire. “That could be casings from bullets. It could be holes in cars or holes in a wall.”
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On March 18, two men were shot in the 700 block of Brant Street. One of the men was shot multiple times, but police said neither of the victims suffered life-threatening injuries. Police are calling it attempted murder.
In total, there have been six cases since January where Windsor police found evidence confirming shots were fired, apart from someone hearing what sounded like gunfire.
“As a police service it’s not something we want to have in our city, as community members it’s not something we want,” said Bellaire. “It’s nothing the community needs to be alarmed about at this point. But one firearm being fired in the city is too much.”