Edmonton

Edmonton facing deadliest year since 2011, averaging one murder per week

The city has seen 16 homicides so far this year, one for every week of 2016. That's just one murder short of where the city was at this time in 2011. By the end of that year, the number had climbed to 47.

Detectives scrambling to keep up with investigations

The suspect in the Whyte Ave. nightclub shooting turned himself in after police issued a Canada-wide warrant.

Sixteen murders in 16 weeks.

That's the grim math facing Edmonton's homicide detectives. 

Right now, they're working a caseload that falls just one short of where the city sat at this time in 2011.

By the end of that record-setting year, which earned the city the title Murder Capital of Canada, the total number of killings had climbed to 47.

One big difference this year is that so many of the killings involve guns, Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht said earlier this month. 

Our homicide folks and our support personnel are run off their feet. They're working 24-7.- Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht

"Usually we don't have guns to that prevalence," Knecht said. "We'll see what the rest of the year bears out."

After the city's murder rate skyrocketed five years ago, Knecht expanded his homicide unit. Now his investigators are once again stretched thin.

"Our homicide folks and our support personnel are run off their feet," Knecht said. "They're working 24-7."

He said some investigators thrive on being busy and on the complexity of investigations, sometimes working 24 to 48 hours straight.

Edmonton police at a suspicious death and weapons complaint early Monday near 128th Street and 117th Avenue.

The latest homicide victim, Nicole Leeanne Cooney, died early Monday of a gunshot wound. A day later, police charged a 32-year old man with her first-degree murder

Two weeks ago, the suspect in a deadly Whyte Avenue nightclub shooting turned himself in. Those two are the only homicide cases cleared so far this year. 

The nightclub shooting wrapped up Edmonton's deadliest week of 2016, with five killings in five days.

That rash of murders prompted the Edmonton Police Service to call in almost all of its 21 homicide detectives. Officers from other units provided extra support, containing scenes and canvassing neighbourhoods.

Investigators are still so overextended they had to decline CBC's request for an interview, and couldn't even respond to questions, a spokesperson said, "until files start to settle down."

Police chief reassures Edmontonians

One question likely on many minds: What's behind the spike in killings? 

Earlier this month, Knecht said there was no clear pattern. But he noted most victims were involved in "high-risk" lifestyles.

Most people, Knecht said to reassure the public, are "very safe here in Edmonton."

He also made a point of reassuring family members that, regardless of the victim's life choices or circumstances, all cases are investigated equally.

"They are the victims left behind," said Knecht, "And they want to know, 'Is someone going to be arrested? Is somebody going to be held to account? Are the police focused on this?' And the answer is absolutely yes."

@andreahuncarandrea.huncar@cbc.ca

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