4 killings, 9 days: Police reassure public Edmonton remains a safe city

Edmonton has averaged almost one homicide a week since the start of the year, putting the city ahead of both Calgary and Toronto.

Edmonton has recorded 23 homicides so far this year, more than either Calgary or Toronto

Deputy police chief Brian Simpson held a news conference Friday to talk about homicides and gun violence in the city. (CBC)

Edmonton has averaged almost one homicide a week since the start of 2017, but police offered reassurances Friday the city remains a safe place to live.

A stabbing death Friday morning was the city's fourth homicide in nine days.

Hours later, deputy police chief Brian Simpson held a news conference to reassure residents that they are safe.

"Edmonton is and continues to be a safe city," Simpson told reporters at the downtown police headquarters.

The Alberta capital has recorded 23 homicides in 2017. Simpson said each one of those killings represents a tragedy for families and friends of the victims.

"In speaking with you today, it is not our intention to diminish the tragedy of these incidents," he said. "Instead it is our intention to offer reassurance to Edmontonians of their safety."

The police department has partnered with Sandy Jung, an associate professor at MacEwan University, to study 196 homicides in the city between 2007 and 2012.

Focusing on 124 cases that had been "cleared" by 2014, meaning cases where arrests were made, Jung looked at three key factors: the location of the homicides and the characters of the victims and their killers.

Trends for this year similar to past

The research shows that in almost 75 per cent of cases, the victims knew their killers, Simpson said.

Substance abuse was a factor in most cases and 84 per cent of the killers were "criminally active" beforehand, he said.

Similar statistics apply to this year's homicides, Simpson said.

"This research demonstrates that not everyone faces the same level of risk as it relates to being a victim," he said.

The 23 homicides this year is actually one fewer than the city saw by this point last year. But Edmonton has still seen more homicides than Calgary (12) and Toronto (21).

Three of this year's homicide victims were killed by strangers, but arrests have been made in each of those cases.

Nine killings this year involved guns, and nine involved edged weapons.

Police released statistics for a six-year period that show:

  • In 2016, there were 42 total homicides, with 24 recorded by June 16;
  • In 2015, there were 33 total homicides, with 12 recorded by June 16;
  • In 2014, there were 35 total homicides, with 12 recorded by June 16;
  • In 2013, there were 29 total homicides, with 13 recorded by June 16;
  • In 2012, there were 30 total homicides, with 24 by recorded June 16;
  • In 2011, there were 48 total  homicides, with 25 by recorded June 16.

Simpson said 15 of the 23 homicides recorded this year have resulted in charges. That leaves homicide detectives with eight unsolved killings on the books.

More murder charges laid

The latest case was shifted into the solved column on Friday, when police announced that two men had been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Justin Nicholas Allen.

Allen was shot at 1:30 a.m. on June 1 outside a pub at a strip mall near Hermitage Road and 40th Street in the Clareview neighbourhood. He died later in hospital.

Police say an argument started inside the pub between two groups of people. The argument continued outside and several shots were fired. Detectives think Allen was not involved in the argument but was shot when he stepped outside the pub.