8 deaths in 12 days: String of violent deaths in Edmonton not cause for panic, experts say
'Should we all be afraid for our lives? No,' says former EPS officer
Eight violent deaths in 12 days.
It's been a tragic two weeks in Edmonton, with multiple killings by gunshot, knife and other forms of violence.
But while emotions understandably run high when it seems like every day brings more killing, some experts say there's no reason to think that the recent spate of killings signifies a major break from public safety levels of recent years.
More likely, it's just a cluster of unrelated incidents that will even out in the annual statistics.
"Should we all be afraid for our lives? No," says Daniel Jones, the associate chair of justice studies at NorQuest College who spent 25 years as an Edmonton police officer.
The eight deaths were scattered across the city in five separate incidents on five different days over the past two weeks. Because they are so recent, little is publicly known about them, and police have only begun investigating.
But on the surface, there's nothing connecting the incidents directly.
A tragic two weeks
In the early hours of March 5, 34-year-old Nathan Frencheater was found stabbed to death in Haddow, in the city's southwest. A relative of the victim was arrested and charged with second-degree murder
Two days later, in the early evening of March 7, police responded to a weapons complaint in the Delwood/Belvedere area. They discovered two people inside a vehicle — Mohamed Lamin Fofanah, 20, and Mya Abialmouna, 21 — who had been shot multiple times. They both died soon after.
Then, at 2:30 a.m. on March 11, EPS responded to a single-vehicle collision in an alley in Beacon Heights. In the driver's seat was a 44-year-old man with what police described as "injuries consistent with an assault, not a collision." The man died at the scene.
The following day, in the early morning of March 12, a man entered a Pizza Hut in Woodcroft and shot a 55-year-old employee before fleeing. The victim was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries.
On the morning of March 15, police found a man shot to death after a weapons complaint in the Kilkenny area.
The following morning, EPS officers Const. Travis Jordan, 35, and Const. Brett Ryan, 30, were shot dead by a 16-year-old male suspect in Inglewood, who also died of a gunshot wound. Police said the officers did not fire their weapons, and they believe the suspect's wound was self-inflicted. The suspect's mother was also shot and is in hospital in serious condition.
But Jones cautioned against connecting dots. Very little has been released about the investigations, and proximity between crimes doesn't by itself mean there's any connection.
"I remember when I was in homicide, [one year] we had eight homicides in nine days," says Jones. "It would just come in clusters. And of those eight that occurred in nine days, none were related."
Other years have seen similar clusters of homicides in a short span. Around this time last year, there had been nine homicides, including three people killed by police. But by year's end, there had been fewer homicides in 2022 than the previous year.
While there may be various factors genuinely influencing trends in violent crime data — such as high unemployment, or increased gang activity, for example — Jones cautions about understanding the difference between correlation and causation.
"One of the things I often use [in teaching] is the correlation between ice cream sales and homicides in the United States. The higher the ice cream sales, the higher the homicides — and we know that's not causation, we know that's just weird."
'Crime is a social phenomenon'
Temitope Oriola, a professor of criminology and sociology at the University of Alberta, said it can be challenging to find explanations for violent crime.
"There are a constellation of factors," he says. The availability of guns, particularly "weapons that don't belong in the hands of civilians" is a problem.
But Oriola points to broader issues like addiction, mental health, social isolation — "especially young men" — and the trauma that many people experience at an early age.
Jones also noted the lack of a trauma-informed approach to not only policing and the justice system, but also education and health care.
And Oriola, making the point that "crime is non-randomly distributed," noted that neighbourhoods that see the most crime are frequently the most neglected in terms of public amenities and services. Reducing crime rates, including violent crime, requires attention to the well-being of communities on a social level, not just a focus on the people who commit crimes, he says.
"Crime is a social phenomenon," says Oriola. "We have to look past the individual committing [these crimes]."