As homicides pile up, deputy police chief calls Edmonton ‘safe city’

Click to play video: 'Police try to reassure Edmontonians as homicides pile up'
Police try to reassure Edmontonians as homicides pile up
WATCH ABOVE: The Edmonton Police Service's deputy police chief called a press conference Friday afternoon in an effort to calm people worried about the troubling number of homicides in Alberta's capital this month. Fletcher Kent reports – Jun 16, 2017

With police investigating four homicides in just the past nine days, and only hours after police began investigating the latest homicide in Edmonton – a deadly north-side stabbing – the Edmonton Police Service’s deputy chief held a press conference in an effort to reassure Edmontonians that Alberta’s capital is safe.

“I realize this has prompted many questions from the media as well as citizens who may be questioning the safety of their city,” EPS Deputy Chief Brian Simpson told reporters. “I would like to make one thing very clear: Edmonton is and continues to be a safe city.

“The citizens of our city should enjoy what the city has to offer: our parks, our neighbourhoods, our downtown core, the amenities we have are there to be enjoyed and they are safe.”

Simpson confirmed a man found dead in an alley in the Beverly area early Friday morning was being treated as the city’s 23rd homicide victim in 2017. The man was stabbed, which marks the second deadly stabbing in north Edmonton in as many days.

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READ MORE: 1 man dead, another in hospital after north Edmonton stabbing

“To date, we have 23 confirmed homicides – a number that is high but not uncommon in past history,” Simpson said. “For example, on this date last year, we had 24 homicides. But from 2012 to 2015, our numbers were consistently lower.”

Watch below: On March 28, 2016, Kendra Slugoski filed this report as the Edmonton Police Service’s homicide unit said it was investigating its sixth suspicious death in just six days.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton police investigate string of suspicious deaths'
Edmonton police investigate string of suspicious deaths

Simpson also addressed a deadly shooting in broad daylight outside a northeast strip mall earlier this week, a homicide for which police have released shocking photos of a suspect holding what appeared to be an assault rifle. On Friday afternoon, Simpson confirmed the rifle seen in the photo is a .223 Remington semi-automatic rifle. He said while police are not ruling out a possible gang connection to the shooting, it was premature to conclude anything and that gang violence itself does not appear to be connected to the high number of homicides.

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READ MORE: Edmonton police release photos of suspects in connection with deadly shooting outside convenience store

The Edmonton Police Service has released photos of four suspects in connection with the fatal shooting of a 22-year-old man on Sunday in the hopes the images will bring about tips from the public. Courtesy, Edmonton Police Service

“We always look to see if there’s trends: do we see gang warfare breaking out? Is there an issue in a certain part of the community that we need to pay attention to? We are not seeing those trends.”

Simpson said it’s important to remember each homicide represents “the death of a person whose life was valuable” however, he also suggested recent research – conducted in cooperation with MacEwan University and looking at nearly 200 homicides between 2007 and 2012 – points towards a significant number of victims leading higher-risk lifestyles than the average person.

“This research demonstrates that not everyone faces the same level of risk as it relates to being a victim or perpetrator of a violent crime or homicide,” he said. “Different choices about relationships, associates, the places you go and the things you do result in different experiences and outcomes in the community.”

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Simpson noted his intention was not to “diminish the tragedies” but rather to reassure Edmontonians that their city is safe.

“What we’re noticing is substance abuse and drug-related conflict continues to be present in a large majority of the incidents. That being said, there are anomalies. This year, three individuals lost their lives at the hands of strangers.”

Police said of the 23 confirmed homicides in 2017 so far, 15 have been cleared by investigators. Of the 23 homicides, nine involved guns and another nine involved “edged weapons.”

READ MORE: 2 men charged with first-degree murder after man shot outside Edmonton pub

Edmonton has seen more homicides this year than Canada’s largest city. On Friday, the Toronto Police Service’s website indicated there had been 21 homicides in that city so far this year.

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