A homicide detective says a significant year-over-year drop in killings across Hamilton maybe attributed to “successful investigations” that saw “some significant players” connected with local crime taken off the street.
However, Hamilton Police Det.-Sgt. Steve Bereziuk admits it is “hard to pinpoint” an exact reason for the dramatic drop from a record 20 deaths in 2021 to just five in 2022.
“I do attribute some of that to locking up some significant players that were involved in severe violence in the city,” Bereziuk told 900 CHML’s Bill Kelly Show.
“And I do think that had an impact on street level crime, reducing our homicides and perhaps quelling some of the shootings for a period of time.”
The five deaths is below a four-decade average in a city that has seen around 12 killings annually, according to data from Statistics Canada.
Charges have been laid in four of the five cases for 2022 involving four men and one woman with two shot, one stabbed and the other cause not yet revealed.
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Shootings in the city have not followed suit with homicides, though.
In early December, police reported a year-over-year increase of 24 per cent, prompting the city’s top cop to reallocate resources to front-line work.
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Chief Frank Bergen told Global News that officers seized 234 guns in the city as of the end of November 2022, surpassing the 224 taken off the streets for all of 2021.
“I can tell you the trend is not good,” Bergen told 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton.
“We can sit back and we can falsely celebrate the fact that we’re at a historic low for homicides, but our shootings are at 41.”
In 2020, Hamilton Police launched “Project Strong,” targeting retaliation between neighbourhood gangs after the city saw 51 shootings that year, up from 47 in 2019.
Officers in that initiative were pulled from various different units to focus on gang and gun violence in particular.
Although Bereziuk admits the drop in 2022 could just be an “outlier,” he suggests Project Strong could have helped in keeping homicide cases low.
He says overlapping homicides in 2021 were tied to some of the same people causing violent crime and their arrests could have contributed to fewer cases the following year due to deeper investigations.
“When we focus on something like that … that becomes the main focus and becomes an ability to investigate further, maybe more in-depth,’ Bereziuk said.
Another factor may also be the work of paramedics and emergency response teams saving lives in 2022, which he said was “tremendous” last year.
“The work that they do in the hospital is incredible to keep people alive, which keeps my office out of it,” Bereziuk said.
“So the number certainly could have been higher. This is certainly a bit of an outlier at five.”
Chief Bergen is requesting about $12.3 million more for the city’s 2023-2024 police budget pushing the overall number to roughly $196 million.
He told councillors the bump addresses staffing issues and is needed to provide adequate and effective policing.