Calgary police concerned but not worried about the level of violent crime in the city

There have been 21 homicides in Calgary so far this year, already matching the total number from 2021

By Leanne Murray | September 1, 2022 |5:00 am

Calgary’s recent spate of violent crime has left many people in the community feeling unsafe.

Photo: Shutterstock

With four months left in 2022, Calgary has already matched the number of homicides that occurred in 2021.

A random fatal attack in Inglewood marked the city’s 21st homicide of the year and there were 21 total last year, according to Calgary Police Service stats.

Calgary has also surpassed the total number of shootings last year, which was 96, so it’s no surprise that many Calgarians are feeling uneasy about their safety.

CPS Supt. Scott Boyd spoke at a press conference this week and said there have been 99 shootings in Calgary so far this year.

He said police are concerned about the level of senseless gun violence in Calgary, but they aren’t worried.

“Concerned that the individuals responsible are showing such reckless behaviour on our streets for other Calgarians,” Boyd said, adding other concerns include the random nature of the gun violence and the sheer volume.

Concerned but not worried

Boyd said violent crime concerns CPS from a police standpoint but also as members of the community.

“We all have family that live in Calgary as well, that walk the same streets as these people, where these incidents are taking place.”

He offered what he hoped would be a comforting message while not dismissing some residents’ fears.

“We have a very engaged community and when they see these types of news conferences, we get an outpouring of phone calls, responses, and tips from Calgarians helping lead and solve other crimes. Those calls, full stop, help solve crimes.”

Boyd also pointed to CPS’ investigative teams, analysts, forensic experts, and patrol officers who chase down the leads and hold individuals accountable for their actions.

He said CPS is making daily progress on the violent crime and that more than 300 crime guns have been recovered, year to date.

“We have a plan, we’re working [on] the plan, and the plan is producing results. And I hope knowing that brings some calm and solace to those who may be a little worried right now.”

Unprecedented territory

At a press conference last week, CPS Chief Mark Neufeld referenced the shootings that had taken place in Radisson Heights.

“I see the comments from individuals living in Radisson and places that they consider to be safe communities… but they’re not feeling safe and I completely understand,” he said.

“So it makes me feel like we really need to redouble our efforts to be working with [the] community to see what we can do to try to intervene where we can.”

Neufeld commented on this year’s shootings exceeding the five-year average of 87 and inching closer to the 112 shootings recorded in 2020.

“We’re in unprecedented territory,” he said, adding the lowest number of shootings in Calgary in the past five years was 46 in 2018.

Neufeld said one shooting is too many and that he doesn’t feel good about this year’s count.

“When I look at a number like this [97] this early in the year, that’s problematic and I don’t ever want to see that normalized here in our city.”

Identifying the causes

But what’s behind the recent violent crime?

Neufeld said it’s been more difficult to pinpoint this year as the drivers have been more obvious in previous years.

When it comes to the shootings, Neufeld said about a quarter can be connected to organized crime while the rest are attributed to a variety of other reasons.

“Some of them have more of an element of randomness to them which makes them more difficult to intervene in.”

Speaking at a CPS press conference earlier this month, Insp. Jodi Gach said organized crime/gang-related violence is not increasing this year and most shootings have other drivers like drugs, road rage, and personal disputes.

Gach said Calgary has both a gang problem and a gun problem with firearms increasingly becoming more readily available.

Gun violence trending up

Doug King is a justice studies professor at Mount Royal University and he told Calgary Citizen there is a worrisome trend across North America with the steady increase in gun violence.

While only about 25 per cent of Calgary’s shootings are directly linked to criminal organizations, King says the majority of the rest have indirect links.

“People who typically are engaged in criminal activities, drug dealing, those kinds of things, have acquaintances who are criminal affiliates and those are the people that seem to be using the firearms most.”

King expects the trend of using firearms while committing criminal offences to continue to creep up, but offers a bit of perspective, adding that not all firearms offences turn into homicides.

“Not everyone who uses a firearm is using it to kill someone. It can be used to rob someone, to intimidate someone, those kinds of activities. So one shouldn’t always assume that use of firearms in the commission of a criminal offence means someone’s been shot and killed.”

However, King acknowledges that the threat is there with crimes involving firearms, which leads to understandable fear within a community.

The aura effect

King says no particular pattern has emerged when it comes to the most recent violent crime in Calgary.

As for the perception of safety, he believes the so-called aura effect might be at play for many Calgarians.

Essentially what it means is that people typically feel safe in their own homes, but feel less and less safe the further away they get.

“The further the person strays from their place of residence, their fear of crime tends to increase,” King says, adding hearing about the number of shootings and homicides in the city will also feed a person’s sense of insecurity.

King says when there is a lot of violent crime, people will feel less safe even if they are not in any particular danger.

“And it’s real, right? You can’t discount how people feel about themselves and their safety.”

Targeted and solvable

King says many of Calgary’s violent offences tend to be targeted, which should also dampen some residents’ fear of crime.

He says these types of crimes are solvable through investigative police work and typically don’t involve the general public.

“Although unfortunately bystanders can get harmed, in most targeted situations, bystanders are not harmed. They’re at risk of being harmed, but they’re not being harmed at any great rate.”

As for Calgary’s homicide rate, King expects the city will end the year with a number in the high 20s based on the statistics so far.

“I don’t think we’re going to see a record year because most homicides typically occur in warm weather months — so spring, summer, and into the fall. And then we start to tail off a bit.”

According to CPS stats, there were 34 homicides in Calgary in 2020, just shy of the record of 37 set in 2015.

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Leanne Murray

Leanne is a Calgary Citizen reporter.

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