Edmonton’s police chief says the recent rash of gun violence in the city is unacceptable, and he’s warning those responsible that they will be held accountable.
“We know who you are and we will be seeing you soon,” EPS chief Dale McFee said Wednesday afternoon.
“Mark our words on that.”
Edmonton police have been called to several shootings in the past few days, the most recent of which happened Wednesday morning in the area of 106 Avenue and 85 Street.
Police were also called Tuesday morning to a shooting in the area of 129 Avenue and 117 Street. A man was found lying on the ground with a gunshot wound to the arm and was expected to survive.
Monday morning was particularly busy for police, as they were called to three shootings between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. — two in the west-end that also involved home invasions, and one on the south side.
McFee said Wednesday that the two shootings in the west end “are definitely connected” and there’s strong intelligence to suggest gang involvement in the crimes.
“The majority of these crimes are being committed by individuals involved in a criminal lifestyle or their connections with gangs and drugs. We certainly know that drugs play a prominent factor in a lot of these shootings,” McFee said.
“Our gang suppression team is all hands on deck to address the violence taking place on our streets.”
So far in 2020, there have been 284 occurrences involving a firearm or replica firearm in Edmonton, compared to 248 in same time frame in 2019, McFee explained.
The police chief said about 46 per cent of shootings in Edmonton are targeted, where the suspects and victims know each other.
McFee said most firearms are obtained illegally “by criminals or those planning to commit crimes.”
“The majority are obtained by straw purchases, which we have reported previously, which occurs when an individual with a valid firearms licence purchases a firearm for another individual or individuals who cannot lawfully purchase the firearms themselves.”
While the chief said an increase in gun violence has been a trend in Edmonton over the past several years, he said the COVID-19 pandemic could be playing an additional role this year.
“We know when times are tough, crime does escalate and we’re seeing this play out.”
McFee pointed to more money being available to people through benefits like CERB, as well as a surge in gun purchases at the beginning of the pandemic.
“We do get pretty good intelligence that the money in relation to many people are getting in the system through various payments that come out has increased the drug trafficking and there seems to be a correlation to that as well to the gunplay,” he said.
“We saw large purchasing of firearms due to COVID-19, probably some of that fear of individuals wanting safety.
“We’re now seeing a lot of these guns starting to pour onto our streets.”
The EPS is taking steps to address the violence, with the creation of a Firearms Examination Unit, which more officers are being hired onto. McFee said the EPS has also purchased an integrated ballistics identification system to be able to analyze cartridge casings and link shooting events more quickly. A modular test fire facility has also been set up, which will test all firearms that are seized by police.
“All of these new initiatives will lead to more timely investigative leads and more quicker, comprehensive investigations and ultimately, the goal of all of this is to hold criminals responsible,” he said.
“The stuff that we’re talking about today is going to get attention. It is going to get solved and we are going to hold people accountable.
“So to serve notice on those who choose to disrupt our city — some of those who choose to engage in gang and gun play — unacceptable. We know who you are and we will be seeing you soon.”
Seven of the 29 homicides that have happened this year have involved firearms.