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Crime

Edmonton 2016: police say near-record homicide rate has become normal

WATCH ABOVE: Thursday, Edmonton police spoke about the year's homicide files. As Fletcher Kent reports, some issues are familiar ones, but police say there's one new development.

EDMONTON – In one year, 40 people have died violent deaths in Edmonton. Sixteen were shot, 11 were stabbed, five were beaten to death with another weapon.

Twenty-six people face charges related to the killings.

It’s what Edmonton police call “a very busy year.”

Edmonton homicide investigators spoke Thursday about the work they’ve been doing this year. While they say it has been busy, S/Sgt. Bill Clark also says Edmontonians should get used to this.

“This is probably a city where we’re going to see an average of 35 to 45 homicides a year now,” Clark said.

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READ MORE: Alberta among highest homicide rates in Canada in 2015: Statistics Canada 

Police say they have cleared half of the killings. Of those, they say the victim and the suspected killer knew each other in 13 cases. Drugs were involved in many cases.

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These issues are similar to what police have seen in previous years.

However, investigators do say they are encountering one new issue this year.

“We have found that there have been numerous fentanyl investigations that have come our way in homicide section,” S/Sgt. Duane Hunter said.

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READ MORE: Drug supplier charged with manslaughter in connection with fentanyl overdose 

Homicide detectives review all drug-related sudden deaths.

They look to see if criminal charges could be filed. Typically, it’s very difficult to find the evidence necessary to lay murder or manslaughter charges following an overdose death.

Police must prove the suspect knew what they were doing could kill the victim.

Because fentanyl is so toxic and so many people now understand how deadly the drug is, police say manslaughter charges filed against drug dealer are becoming more likely.

In fact, one of this year’s 40 homicide victims is a man who overdosed on fentanyl.

In October, police charged 25-year-old Jordan Yarmey with manslaughter. They claim he sold fentanyl to 33 year-old Szymon Kalich.

This charge was the first of its kind in Edmonton. However, police say we could see more because investigators are seeing more such files cross their desks.

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“We may be able to bring some of these investigations to charges quicker or there will be more in the future but we look at them all the same,” Hunter explained.

READ MORE: Edmonton homicides 2016: Who, where, when and how 

Despite the busy year, investigators say they’re managing all the files. Half of them have been cleared. They have suspects in 80 per cent of the remaining cases.

The homicide unit received new staff in 2011 and they expect another new officer to join the historical homicide unit early next year.

While they’re busy, police say they can keep up.

“Don’t kid yourself,” Clark said. “If I could get more manpower, I’d take it because I know how hard these detectives work. We’re managing with what we have because we know we have to.”

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Police also offer reassurances to people worried about their safety given Edmonton’s murder count.

They note there’s more to most of these killings.

“Because most people do avoid introducing these risk factors into their lives, most people are very safe,” S/Sgt. Colin Dersken said. “Because of that, Edmonton is still a very safe city.”

BY THE NUMBERS: Edmonton records 30 homicides in 2015 

Last year, there were 30 homicides in Edmonton.

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