Investigators say in December 2021, they seized a handgun from a suspect in a stolen vehicle, but the gun didn’t belong to that person — instead, police said it was registered to 32-year old Theodore Wedgwood.
After further investigation, police said they found a total of 10 such handguns, all allegedly registered to Wedgwood — but he didn’t have any of them in his possession and hadn’t reported them lost or stolen.
One was seized in Ontario during a criminal investigation.
“The problem with it is a lot of these gangs or organized crime groups that aren’t able to purchase firearms, this gives them another stream to get firearms,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Stewart with the firearms investigations unit.
“The more firearms getting into the hands of these types of groups is they’re going to get them out onto the street and they’re going to use them — as we can see is the trend with so many shootings going on.”
Last week, Edmonton police addressed a spike in brazen gun violence and said of all the shootings that took place in Edmonton in 2021, nearly half had the potential for innocent bystanders to be harmed.
The Edmonton Police Service released data showing showed there were 150 “shooting occurrences” in the capital city last year.
Of those, the EPS said 69 — or 46 per cent — included situations where shots were fired into the air, in the direction of residences or vehicles, or in public and could have resulted in an innocent person being injured.
Police said children were present or in the area for seven of the 69 incidents.
Overall trends show that the number of shootings in 2021 was down from 2020, when 158 shootings took place. However, police said they seized more firearms in 2021 than in 2020. Last year, 1,633 firearms were seized by Edmonton police, compared to 1,125 in 2020.
Of the firearms seized in 2021, 119 were found in vehicles.
Police say gun crime and the violence associated with it are increasing trends not just in Edmonton, but across Canada and in the United States.
Last week, Stewart said straw purchasers are leading to an increase of guns in the city. On Monday, he added in his experience, straw-buyers are lured in by the promise of money.
“They’re usually lawfully firearms owners that get involved in something — whether it be addictions, money loss, losing their jobs, financial restraints. Groups will take advantage of people like this and will go seek them out.”
Stewart said the consequences for straw-buyers are significant when they’re caught.
He’s seen people sentenced to between three and eight years in prison.
Wedgwood has been charged with 10 counts of firearms trafficking and 10 counts of possession for the purposes of trafficking.
— With files from Caley Gibson, Global News