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Solving Toronto’s gun problem: U of T researcher draws on gang experience in Toronto Star op-ed

Adam Ellis, a U of T researcher who once belonged to a street gang, addresses the city’s public health approach to reducing gun violence in a Toronto Star op-ed. Photo: Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images.

In response to escalating gun violence in Toronto last year, the city adopted a public health approach to gun violence. That includes a version of the Interrupters program, which has been used in Chicago. The program recruits ex-gang members to intervene with young people to negotiate non-violent solutions to conflict.

But Adam Ellis, a University of Toronto researcher who was once a gang member who carried a gun for protection, writes in the Toronto Star that there are “no definitive studies” that support such an approach.

“First, would former gang members have changed my mind about violence? Probably not. Did you listen to anyone when you were a teenager?” writes Ellis, who is working on his PhD at U of T’s Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies.

“We need to start from zero, conduct research and bring the best thinkers to the table [on this issue]. I mean, if we can put people into space can we not find new and innovative ways of reducing violence?”