‘The city does remain a safe place,’ Edmonton police say, despite homicide spike
EDMONTON – As of April 22, the city has seen 19 homicides. However, the police insist that doesn’t mean Edmonton is not a safe place for the average citizen.
“The spike in homicides is certainly disconcerting,” EPS Supt. Mark Neufeld said Friday. “I totally get that and I understand the reasons for the concern. But, at the end of the day, those risk factors don’t transfer to the average Edmontonian and as a result of that, it’s a safe community.”
He clarified that each death is tragic and police recognize the impact each and every one has on the family and friends of those involved.
Still, people should not be afraid.
“The incidents that have occurred have not been random, based on what we know,” Neufeld explained, adding guns, drugs and criminal behaviour or associations with people involved in criminal activity are factors that link many of Edmonton’s homicides.
He cited a 2013 EPS study authored in collaboration with a MacEwan University researcher that looked at where, when, and who is involved in murders in Edmonton. The study looked at 124 homicide cases between 2007 and 2012.
Location and time:
- 57 per cent of homicides happened inside a private residence;
- 75 per cent of cases, the victims knew the offenders;
- Nearly half occurred on the weekend;
- Nearly half were reported between midnight and 7 a.m.;
- Average 34.7 years old;
- 75 per cent were male;
- Most are Caucasian;
- 19.3 per cent of adult victims graduated high school;
- Two-thirds were unemployed;
- Substance abuse an issue;
- 68 per cent were criminally active (7.8 per cent had known gang affiliations).
- Average 28.9 years old;
- More than 90 per cent were male;
- Most often they were Caucasian;
- 13.2 per cent had graduated from high school;
- 69 per cent were unemployed;
- Substance abuse was a significant problem;
- 84 per cent were criminally active (19.5 per cent were affiliated with gangs).
WATCH: Edmonton’s murder count has climbed again. Friday, three autopsies added three more homicides to the city’s quickly growing totals. Fletcher Kent reports.
Numbers for this year:
“We’ve had 19 homicides and yes, that’s an unusually high number for us here in the city,” Neufeld said, adding that at this time in 2011, Edmonton saw the same number of homicides. By the end of 2011, Edmonton had a record 49 homicides.
Last year, by April 22, Edmonton had six homicides. This year, Calgary police have confirmed five homicides so far. The RCMP is investigating 13 in Alberta.
However, Neufeld said the RCMP for the area had a record 65 murders in 2015 and Calgary also set a record of 40 murders last year.
“While the spike of homicides in Edmonton so far this year is new for us, it may not be new to the province,” Neufeld said.
Edmonton had 31 homicides in 2015.
He also suggested the last two years have been busy when it comes to homicide cases across the entire province.
Watch below: Edmonton homicides 2016: Who, where, when and how
What’s behind the rise in homicides?
“We’re finding it difficult to chalk this up to any one particular explanation,” Neufeld said.
He said the economy may play some role, but explained police are busy when the economy is good as well.
“It appears more likely that a depressed economy simply exacerbates existing conditions risk factors.”
Strain on resources:
The high number of investigations means more work for investigators, support services, forensics, and tech crimes staff.
Additional resources were added to the EPS Homicide Section in 2011 “to help the section cope with the demands of that year.”
This year, the section is also being supplemented by staff from other sections as well as support from RCMP.
“Over the last week or two we’ve had a real spate of them [homicides], to the point where our existing resources have been really challenged to manage.”
“That’s probably when it became a situation,” Neufeld said, adding that, for the first time since 2011, EPS has had to re-evaluate and adjust how it handles investigations and resources.
Only two of the 19 homicides have been solved, but Neufeld said that will change and updates will come in the next few weeks.
“We’re coming. We take this very, very seriously.”
More guns and meth in Edmonton:
“There’s certainly a lot more guns on the street,” Neufeld said. “These are high-end guns and that’s definitely a concern for us.”
He believes more firearms are being seen in Edmonton because of thefts, break and enters and smuggling over the border.
Drugs also play a role in violent crime.
“We are seeing an increase of street-level use and distribution of, in particular, methamphetamine,” Neufeld said. “People that have used that drug are responsible for a disproportionate amount of violent crime and property crime.”
Many homicides involve what he calls “drug conflict.”
“It’s not because it’s Pablo Escobar out there; it’s because it’s just people who are having a difficult time coping with life and there’s conflict… and it’s resulting in deaths and it’s tragic.”
WATCH: To date, just two of Edmonton’s 19 homicides in 2016 have arrests. But, as Sarah Kraus found out, both police and the mayor say the average citizen should not be worried.
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