Calgary police chief concerned by rise in gun violence in the city

Calgary's police chief says he is concerned by a recent surge in violence that included a 22 per cent increase in shootings in the first half of the year compared to the same time period in 2016.

By the end of June, there had been 45 shootings this year — a 22% increase over 2016

Calgary Police Service Chief Roger Chaffin spoke to the media about increasing gun violence in the city. (CBC)

Calgary's police chief says he is concerned by a recent surge in violence in the city that saw a 22 per cent increase in shootings in the first half of the year compared to the same period last year.

There had been 45 shootings in Calgary at end of June, compared to 37 in the first half of 2016.

"I am concerned, as every Calgarian should be concerned when people behave this way," Chief Roger Chaffin told reporters Friday.

"When they have such reckless disregard for human life, we should all be concerned about it."

Chaffin said the ensuing investigations has taken a toll on some officers.

"The men and women who work here are incredibly drained right now by what they're trying to accomplish," he said.

"There's a lot of work going on right now."

Police say it's a small group behind most of the carnage.

The CPS Specialized Offender Unit is currently investigating about 40 people believed to be involved in at least 55 shootings dating back to 2012, along with a number of unsolved homicides over the last five years and at least 17 reported violent home invasions within the last year.

A shooting event is comprised of more than one injury or property related shooting incident, according to police. This is how the numbers break down. (Calgary Police Service)

Over 20 people within this group have been charged with more than 100 drug and breach of conditions related offences since September 2016.

Despite significant efforts and resources being dedicated to this issue, police have seen a recent increase in their violent behaviour, says Insp. Rob Davidson of the specialized offender unit.

'Zero regard for the safety of others'

"These are predominantly young men who have displayed zero regard for the safety of others, but even more alarming, have displayed minimal regard for their own safety," he said.

"This makes them extremely dangerous, violent and unpredictable. The risk these individuals pose to bystanders and innocent members of our community is exceptionally concerning."

Davidson says those in the group are "very disorganized, fluid and lack the hierarchial structure we would normally see in a traditional gang."

"They do not self-identify under any specific name, or names," he said.

There have been 45 shooting events to the end of June 2017, compared to 37 during the same time period for 2016. (Calgary Police Service)

The range of violence includes shootings, kidnappings, assaults, extortions and home invasions.

While the crime rate has gone up, many crimes aren't being reported, said Davidson.

"We're asking the public to come forward with any information they may have," he said.

"Something as basic as reports of hearing gunshots, or video from personal security cameras that may have captured an incident, would be extremely beneficial in assisting us."

Investigators have made some headway, says Davidson, noting that more than 100 firearms have been seized so far this year.

"We believe that we have been successful in preventing some future shootings," he said.

"The investigative teams across the service are also working closely with our forensic investigators, and we're trying to tie together whether our seized firearms relate to other shootings."

Anyone too afraid to come forward can also reach out to police through anonymous channels like Crime Stoppers, said Davidson.

Police also released these stats:

  • 32 of the 45 shootings are believed to be targeted.
  • It is estimated that 15 of the 45 shootings this year, or one-third, are related to the ongoing conflict involving the group of 40 individuals.
  • Communities within central and northeast Calgary have the highest shooting occurrence rates.
  • About 60 per cent of all shootings are associated to known criminal affiliations.
  • The majority of shootings occur during the night on weekends.
  • About 70 per cent of all shootings are confirmed to be drug related.
  • In May 2017, police recorded the second highest number of shooting events (13) in a single month for the past two years, surpassed only by January 2015 (15).​

Calgary police search the parking lot in front of a northeast Co-op store after a shooting in 2014. (CBC)