Edmonton

'This is real, this isn't TV': Edmonton police chief says of recent gun violence

Edmonton's police chief says he is very concerned about the recent spike in shootings on city streets.

Police report 127 shootings from Jan. 1 to Nov. 2 this year

Crime scene tape around the site of a home invasion in west Edmonton on Monday. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee says he's concerned about the recent spike in shootings on city streets, and is worried that bystanders might end up in the line of fire. 

There were 127 police-reported shootings between Jan. 1 and Nov. 2.

"This is real," McFee said. "This isn't TV."

On Monday there were two home invasions in the west end, followed by an unrelated shooting in southwest Edmonton. 

"Our gang suppression team is all hands on deck to address the violence that's taking place on our streets," McFee said during a virtual news conference Wednesday afternoon. 

"You saw just recently two events play out on the west side of our city. Unacceptable. We have strong leads and we will hold people accountable."

McFee thinks most of the crimes are being committed by people with criminal lifestyles or those who have connections with gangs and drugs. 

Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee speaks to media through a Zoom conference call on Wednesday afternoon. (Edmonton Police Service/Zoom)

Most of the gun violence involves people who know each other, he said, and the shootings are often retaliatory.

But McFee said he worries innocent people could get caught in the crossfire. 

"There is the risk of a bullet going astray, but it's also something that we don't want on our streets," McFee said. "It's just unacceptable that people think they can see this play out on our streets."

The chief thinks there are more illegal guns in circulation in Edmonton.

So far this year, police have reported 284 "firearms occurrences," which would include instances where a gun or replica gun was used to assault someone, or to threaten someone.

"The amount of car stops that we have now on a daily basis and taking firearms from vehicles is crazy," McFee said. 

The Edmonton Police Service has formed a new firearms team that is working with the province. Money has been spent on a new ballistics identification system that McFee said will allow officers to analyze cartridge casings and link shooting events more quickly. 

"We've also just set up our modular test fire facility, which will now be testing all firearms seized," he said.

McFee said it's part of his longer-term plan to investigate gun violence "in a more effective, efficient and relentless manner." 

Domestic violence incidents up 

Edmonton has had 29 homicides so far this year, including seven shooting deaths. Knives were the most common weapons, used in 14 of the killings.

Charges have been laid in more than half the 2020 homicides. 

"There are still 12 remaining under investigation," McFee said. "We have leads on all those files and they're progressing well." 

McFee said 10 of the 19 people charged so far this year had criminal records, and nine had outstanding warrants when arrested. 

Three homicides involved domestic violence. McFee said he is concerned about that increase as well. 

"This year to date, we've had 7,816 domestic violence violations," he said. "Compared to 6,737 at this time last year, for a 16 per cent increase." 

McFee worries about the toll COVID-19 is taking on families, and said police will continue to work with community partners to assist victims and children. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Janice Johnston

Court and crime reporter

Janice Johnston is an investigative journalist with CBC Edmonton who has covered Alberta courts and crime for more than three decades. She won a national Radio Television Digital News Association award in 2016 for her coverage of the trial of a 13-year-old Alberta boy who was acquitted of killing his abusive father. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca.

now