A new team of Prince Albert, Sask., police officers is up and running as the service works to tackle a recent bout of violent crime.
The service’s crime suppression team includes patrol members, a K9 unit officer and a member of the investigative division.
Responding with “intelligence-led policing,” members will address gang activity, gun violence and property crime, according to police Chief Jonathan Bergen.
“We looked at … how we could absorb those members into that important unit and still have the important work that they typically do continue on,” Bergen told reporters.
The Prince Albert Board of Police Commissioners received an overview Tuesday morning on what the police service has done to address recent violent crime.
During a virtual news conference Wednesday, Bergen acknowledged the rash of violence in the community.
Most recently, police charged an 18-year-old woman with manslaughter while using a firearm in the death of an 18-year-old Prince Albert man. His body was found inside a home on Saturday in the 1700 block of 14th Street West.
Around 11 p.m. Tuesday, police got a call about multiple gunshots. They found a 28-year-old man dead at a home in the 700 block of 13th Street West.
An 18-year-old woman and 20-year-old man were charged with attempted murder after a shooting near the intersection of 28th Street and 6th Avenue East on Oct. 4.
So far this year, Prince Albert police have seized 115 guns — part of a “significant increase” over the last few years of unlawfully altered, possessed and carried guns, Bergen said.
“The majority of the violence we see in our community is not random. In most cases, the suspects and victims are known to each other,” Bergen said.
Investigations are ongoing into the recent violence, and without giving specifics of any cases, Bergen said “a number of the incidents” are believed to be gang-related.
“I would say that there is conflict within a group, but I wouldn’t consider it to be a gang war at this time,” Bergen said, adding no violence is welcome in the community.
The force currently employs 100 sworn officers, but Bergen said lobbying efforts underway to increase the number. Twenty members are funded through the Ministry of Corrections and Policing, while three carry out traffic safety efforts funded by Saskatchewan Government Insurance.
“I do have a goal for enhancing our sworn positions and we’re working towards that,” Bergen said, though he did not provide a specific figure.
Lobbying efforts also include a conversation about what is best for the community and what resources are needed in it, according to the chief.