City police say they're finding more guns on Edmonton streets, echoing an alarm raised by gang cops across the province.

"Clearly the use of firearms is up in the city," police Chief Rod Knecht said Monday. "We are seizing a lot more handguns.

"In fact, a lot of the pursuits we're involved with now, there's almost always a firearm we're taking out of the vehicle."

Knecht connected the rising number of guns with the drug trade, which is reflected in the number of violent deaths in Edmonton.

Half of the homicides in 2017 involved guns, a much higher rate than in previous years, he said.

Police say the city has seen 29 homicides so far this year. Seven out of 10 involved drugs, Knecht said.

"Drugs is the overwhelming impetus for homicides," the chief said. "Either it's a rip off, or over a drug debt not paid, or there's drug use either on the side of the victim or the perpetrator."

alert guns

Some of the 249 firearms seized by the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams last year. (ALERT)

Earlier this month, the province's organized-crime police agency, Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams, announced it had seized a record number of guns in the year ending on March 31, 2017.

ALERT seized 249 guns, almost double the number of the previous year.

Insp. Dave Dubnyk, officer in charge of ALERT regional teams, attributed the rise in gun use to the growing number of gangs in the province.