Police chief reassures Calgarians following run of violent crimes: ‘Calgary remains a safe city’

Click to play video: 'Police chief reassures Calgarians following run of violent crimes: ‘Calgary remains a safe city’'
Police chief reassures Calgarians following run of violent crimes: ‘Calgary remains a safe city’
WATCH: Calgary’s police chief spoke to the media not from police headquarters like he usually does but from the scene of a shooting in the northwest. As Elissa Carpenter reports, the chief made a point of saying he’s had enough. – Apr 13, 2023

Following a violent 24 hours in Calgary that saw multiple shootings and stabbings, the city’s top cop is urging calm among ordinary Calgarians.

“Calgary remains a safe city,” Calgary Police Service Chief Mark Neufeld said Thursday afternoon.

The police chief addressed assembled media outside a grocery story in the city’s Sunnyside neighbourhood that had shots fired outside it.

READ MORE: Calgary homicide unit investigates fatal shooting with 2 crime scenes

Click to play video: '‘I am disgusted… with what is going on in our city:’ Calgary police chief'
‘I am disgusted… with what is going on in our city:’ Calgary police chief

Neufeld said that the Wednesday evening shooting – like most instances of violent crime in the city – was targeted and involved individuals who were known to each other and police.

Story continues below advertisement

“It’s not the people that are going to the grocery store or going to enjoy a restaurant, or enjoy the community in whatever way that they do, that are experiencing these levels of violence,” Neufeld said.

He said violent crimes in the city in 2022 were down compared to 2021 levels and are roughly level with the five-year average.

“We’re not seeing a huge uptick in violent crime.”

According to CPS, some violent crime numbers are down this year when compared to the same period last year.

Shootings are down in 2023, with only 28 shootings occurring in Calgary. The same time period in 2022 saw 48 shootings.

Story continues below advertisement

And there are fewer homicides this year, with four deaths having been classified as such as of April 13, 2023. At the same date last year, the city saw 10 homicides.

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

Neufeld said the city sits in the middle of Statistics Canada’s crime severity index.

But the police chief said police are dealing with mental health-related calls and issues that are spilling into public spaces. He added Calgary is not alone in Canada in the manifestations of violent crime in public spaces.

Click to play video: 'One man dead after shooting in northwest Calgary parking lot'
One man dead after shooting in northwest Calgary parking lot

And he was adamant that, with the support of all orders of government, “(police) are on it.”

Perceptions of safety

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she has “deep concern” for the violent incidents in the past few months in the city.

Story continues below advertisement

The mayor reiterated her and council’s support for the police service and Calgary Police Commission.

“I unequivocally support the efforts of the police service, and because we live in such difficult times, they cannot be the only ones to respond to the things that we are seeing happening,” the former police commissioner said.

While crime levels aren’t seeing an upward trend, Gondek recognized the perceptions of crime are an issue.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton mayor calling for provincial support to help address homelessness'
Edmonton mayor calling for provincial support to help address homelessness

Gondek pointed to a “twofold” problem: vulnerable people in need of support for whom 911 is often called, and a “criminal element.”

“If we are able to best deploy police resources where they are needed for that criminal activity, and we are able to use other resources to help people in need, that’s the kind of integrated and combined response that we are looking for,” the mayor said.

Story continues below advertisement

She repeated her call for the province to reinstate the previous share of CPS ticket revenue, to go towards the police budget.

“With the provincial government that has indicated their desire to ensure that the police service is strengthened, this would be a great way to bring some strength back.”

The perception of safety is a real concern for downtown area businesses and residents, especially in light of recent events.

“Obviously, we’re concerned about these recent incidents that have been happening in the downtown core or just close to the downtown core – it leads to the perception of safety issues,” Mark Garner, executive director of the Calgary Downtown Association said.

Organizations like the downtown association have been trying to entice suburbanites back into the city’s core more often. But one negative incident can colour when or if they come back.

“They happen to say, ‘Oh, let’s go to the library. We haven’t been to the library in two years. Let’s go to the library.’ And then that incident happens – they’re not coming back or they’re going to take a longer break, or it’s going to feed that perception that downtown is not safe.”

Story continues below advertisement

Needing a community solution

With a stabbing on a city bus, shots fired in two different parts of the city and a body being found in a suitcase, all within a 48-hour period, Neufeld said he is “disgusted with that is going on in our city.

“This cluster struck a chord with Calgarians for sure and it struck a chord with me.”

The mayor acknowledged this is a novel situation.

“This is something we have not experienced in the past and we’re trying to figure out why it’s happening and how to address it. But I can tell you, when we are dealing with multiple things at once, when people are receiving unsafe drugs supply, when people are having mental health crisis, when people are in extreme positions of vulnerability and the criminal element takes over – these are the types of things that unfold,” she said.

Story continues below advertisement

Neufeld encouraged citizens to take more actions about things like social disorder on transit – beyond posting images to social media.

“I think it’s become vogue to just post things like this online. And I think people keep seeing it and it affects their perceptions of safety in their city,” the police chief said. “If you really want to do something useful, try to do something constructive.

“The violence in our city is not OK and it will never, never be tolerated,” he said. “And Calgary remains a safe city.”

Sponsored content