Calgary police investigations into 2022 shootings reveal reasons, origins of gun crime

A row of guns stored at the Calgary Police Services' Forensic Firearm and Toolmark Lab. Tracy Nagai / Global News

The day after the 106th shooting incident in the city, Calgary police told the Calgary Police Commission that gun crime continues to be addressed through investigations.

“We know that we’re on pace to break previous record with this level of violence, and it’s already taken too many lives,” CPS Supt. Scott Boyd told the commission.

“The violence can be directly attributed to the wanton and reckless behaviour of a few individuals in our city who do not reflect the same caring beliefs and values that the majority of Calgarians display.”

The number of shootings in the city have eclipsed 2021’s total of 96.

Investigators have been able to determine the circumstances of some of the shootings.

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Up to the end of August, 20 were the result of disagreements between individuals, six were drug-related, four were during road rage incidents and two were from robberies for cash. Of the shootings in that time period, 31 are still under investigation and 27 had undetermined motivations.

The report noted that 12 out of 21 of the city’s homicides this year — or 57 per cent — were the result of gunshot injuries.

CPS Chief Mark Neufeld said there was a “shocking” number of guns on Calgary streets now, compared to prior years.

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The firearms investigation unit has tracked where some of the crime guns came from.

Of 28 recovered guns directly linked to shootings, five were smuggled, two were homemade and two were 3D-printed. Four had no serial number after restoration efforts failed and seven were stolen from a residence or during a break and enter.

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Only one was lawfully-owned, two were not reported as lost or stolen — “That means they’re likely trafficked,” Neufeld said — and the rest remain under investigation.

And of the 64 people who are suspects or accused in crime gun seizures, only two had a valid gun licence.

The police chief said the source of crime guns is a concern for community and officer safety.

“I think we’ve seen that the number of guns that have been smuggled: this has been a relatively high number. An increasing percentage of those being ghost guns and guns are coming off of 3D printers — very hard to trace,” Neufeld said.

Acting Dep. Chief Ryan Ayliffe said Calgary is experiencing the nationwide trend of an increase in 3D-printed guns, an area of focus for policing.

“I suspect some of those break and enter guns came from other parts. Rural Alberta is an area … where we see that from time to time,” Neufeld continued.

“But however guns get on the streets and into the hands of criminals, I think, is a concern and will continue to be going forward.”

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The report to the police commission noted that 26 of 100 shootings up to Sept. 12 are being investigated as connected to organized crime.

Boyd said Calgary’s police have been in close contact with police in other cities dealing with similar crime issues, like those in B.C.’s Lower Mainland, Edmonton and Toronto.

“We are confident the violence we are currently seeing in Calgary is not related to conflicts across Canada,” Boyd said.

“It should come as no surprise, though, that when members of criminal groups are incarcerated, we see a decrease in the violence and vice versa.”

With shootings happening in all areas of the city, Boyd said all Calgarians should be concerned with the gun violence and consider helping police investigations in any number of ways.

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“The reality is that for us to be successful in solving these crimes, we rely on eyewitness testimony, CCTV footage and physical evidence to help solve the crime with our investigators,” he said.

CPS chief agrees with assault weapon ban

The police chief said most of the city’s 106 shootings did not involve guns that are part of the federal assault-style firearms ban. But he agreed with the principles behind the ban.

“Taking off the street a number of assault-style weapons and high capacity magazines and this type of thing makes sense,” Nuefeld told the commission. “The devastation has been much worse because of the use and availability of those types of weapons.”

Neufeld said conversations from his American counterparts show the damage assault-style guns can cause in mass shootings.

“So there may be discrepancies or discussions about which weapons sort of fall into the category and which don’t. And those might be discussions worth having,” the CPS chief said.

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“But at the end of the day, in urban environments, those can do a lot of damage. And from a public safety and officer safety perspective, we need to be very concerned with that.”

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Police commissioners asked Neufeld on what role the CPS would play in the federal gun buyback program.

Neufeld said he didn’t know yet, as plans have not yet been communicated from federal authorities.

“The short answer to that is we’re waiting for more information about whether and how that will impact us, and what role we might be expected to play.”

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