Saskatoon police creating guns and gangs unit
Watch above: The number of shooting incidents and gang-related activities in the city is on the rise and the Saskatoon Police Service is firing back. Amber Rockliffe tells us though it could come at a considerable cost to taxpayers.
SASKATOON – After a surge in drive-by shootings, police chases, and drug activity, the Saskatoon Police Service is creating a new guns and gangs unit.
“I never ever thought in my career as a police officer in Saskatchewan that we’d ever be forming such a unit,” said police Chief Clive Weighill.
“We’re going to redeploy some other members within our criminal investigation division to augment the gangs and the guns so we have a substantial amount of officers to work on this,” he explained.
Weighill is not revealing how many officers will be a part of the new unit.
“The gangs don’t give me their work chart, so I’m not giving them mine. But it will be a substantial number of officers,” he explained.
Weighill said the unit will tackle the unprecedented level of gang crime the city is experiencing, which he said is fueled by turf wars.
“We’re seeing people coming in from Vancouver, Toronto, with guns, who try to intimidate their way into the market here,” the chief explained.
He said Saskatoon has seen a steady increase in weapons and firearm charges over the past few years. According to police records, there were 323 charges in 2011.
That jumped up to 435 last year.
“The last thing I want is the citizens of Saskatoon to be worried about their personal safety,” explained Weighill.
“The violence that we’re seeing has mainly been contained to people in the drug trade and the gang activity.”
The chief presented a redeployment report to the Board of Police Commissioners Thursday. The report calls for ten additional officers to deal with the city’s growing population.
The report finds the ratio of officers per 100 thousand people continues to decline.
“We need to get back to about 185 officers per 100,000, which will take ten to get us there,” Weighill explained.
The chief said up to 70 per cent of officers’ time is spent dealing with non-crime related calls, such as those relating to substance and drug abuse, mental illness, and homelessness.
“A lot of the work that the police service is doing is hinged on social inequities within a community, or social problems,” Weighill said.
He expects the new guns and gangs unit to be up and running within two weeks.