Increased surveillance not the answer to gun crime: Gadhia

By Kirsten McMahon, Associate Editor

The City of Toronto’s plan to increase surveillance and incorporate new audio technology to detect gunfire in the wake of the Danforth shootings is not going to reduce gun violence, Toronto criminal lawyer Roots Gadhia tells The Lawyer’s Daily.

The legal publication reports that the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is concerned about Toronto’s plan to increase surveillance and incorporate ShotSpotter technology, which detects gunfire through microphones placed throughout city streets.

“After the recent gun attack on the Danforth, a busy neighbourhood near Toronto’s downtown, City Council approved funding for increased surveillance on July 23 with an amendment for further study into ShotSpotter. Council stipulated that the Toronto Police Services Board must report back to council on the technology’s effectiveness in the first quarter of 2019,” the article states.

Gadhia, principal of R. Roots Gadhia Criminal Defence Law, agrees with the CCLA and says there’s no data that suggests this type of technology would reduce crime.

While ShotSpotter claims to be able to identify gunshots and alert police to the location, she questions the technology’s ability and notes that this type of surveillance is an “an afterthought” and a “Band-Aid solution.”

“Its value, I think, is meaningless, and in fact, it’s a more significantly intrusive system because what it will do is put microphones in [public] areas. The police can choose those areas and those areas will always be those socioeconomically disadvantaged neighbourhoods where they’re going to be violating people’s privacy,” she tells The Lawyer’s Daily.

“Toronto is actually a very safe city and it’s a relatively crime-free city even though it doesn’t look that way on its face,” Gadhia explains, adding that statistics show that crime rates are dropping even though it appears as if gun violence is spiking.

She also has reservations about the police having an increased ability to collect data on citizens that won’t be made available to be used in defence.

“Right now, we have body cams on police officers. I can’t tell you the number of times where my clients have said, ‘It didn’t go down that way, Roots. Can we get the body cam? Because I know the officer had one.’ And when I ask for that, I’m told that the body cam wasn’t on or it wasn’t operational.

“Now, that’s a problem because my first thought is that why is it when my clients give me a different version of how things went down the camera is not operational or wasn’t turned on? Why is it that when the police version is accurate it’s always available for disclosure? There’s a problem,” Gadhia says, telling the legal publication she believes the same issues will occur with audio data collected by ShotSpotter.

“This type of technology is going to be used in a manner that’s not consistent with the furtherance of providing accurate information. It’s going to be used in a very nefarious way. It’s going to be listening in on people’s conversations,” she says, noting that there is “no protection in surveillance.”

In an interview with, Gadhia says Toronto Council’s reaction is predictably over the top.

“This is a knee-jerk reaction to a problem that has always been there,” she says, adding that there is little public attention when shootings occur in “at-risk neighbourhoods.”

“Now that it’s happening in public areas and not the ‘hood’ it’s suddenly a pressing issue,” Gadhia says.

Rather than throwing money into surveillance technology, she tells the legal newswire that funds would be better served by investing in school programs, mental-health initiatives and drug treatment programs.

“A police state is not the answer to reducing gun violence,” Gadhia says.

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