Calgary police officers have been busy this year as gun crime increases across the city.
“We’re up to 56 shootings year to date,” police chief Mark Neufeld said on Global News Morning Calgary on Wednesday.
“We’re on par to have the worst year we’ve had in five years.”
Neufeld noted a large number of the city’s shootings have occurred over the last few months amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with majority of them being classed as a targeted crime.
“It started off slow with the pandemic, I think that changed people’s habits, and then we had a couple of months where we had significant spikes,” he said. “March and June were two really big months.
“I would say seven of 10 of are targeted shootings, which means these individuals know one another and have some sort of a conflict going on.”
Neufeld added that more than half of the city’s shootings are attributed to drugs.
“Over 50 per cent of them — in these ones and over the last five years — the trend is that 56 per cent of them we can tie back directly to inter-group or intra-group conflict related to drugs,” he added. “So that’s the big driver here, certainly in the city.”
Police have also become aware of people associated with drugs carrying concealed weapons, Neufeld said.
“The intel we have in our city, and in other major cities in the country, is that drug dealers at lower levels are actually in possession of firearms on the street — that’s not a good thing.”
While the pandemic itself may not be a driving factor, Neufeld said he believes the closures spurred by the virus could have an impact on the city’s number of shootings.
“I think what’s happening here with the borders closed is there have been some issues around drug supply, which is probably creating some tensions on the street,” he said.
Neufeld also noted that gun sales in the city have skyrocketed this year.
“The other thing we’re hearing from the intelligence side of things is that a lot of guns were sold just prior to the pandemic,” he said.
“Retailers were saying they could not keep up with demand, so we know there’s a lot of guns on the street.”