Will Edmonton again be named Canada's murder capital?
A string of homicides has Edmonton on pace for one of its most violent years on record
A string of homicides that have put Alberta's capital on track for one of the most violent years in its history won't darken Edmonton's image, say two city councillors.
"I don't think it has a big effect on the reputation of Edmonton," said Coun. Tony Caterina. "The overall reputation of Edmonton is not that of a murder capital."
Nineteen homicides have been confirmed in Edmonton so far in 2016, matching the number seen in the spring of 2011, when the city was dubiously named Canada's murder capital.
By the end of that deadly year, the number of homicides had climbed to 47.
Caterina described the trend as an "anomaly" and said he is confident the police force will tackle the underlying criminal element responsible for the violence.
'These aren't random killings'
"These aren't random killings," Caterina said during a Tuesday morning interview on CBC Radio's Edmonton AM. "I think the people of Edmonton should feel fairly safe, unless they're living a particular lifestyle.
"Each city has their own unique circumstances as to why their numbers are what they are. And we have to be very cognizant of that, and project some calm, certainly in the early stages of this year."
The most recent murders happened last week. Nikita Lee Healy, 26, was found shot to death April 20 in an apartment suite near Commonwealth Stadium. The remains of Blair Schmidt, 30, were found the day before, inside a burned-out rental suite northwest of downtown.
A nightclub shooting on March 27 wrapped up Edmonton's deadliest week of 2016, with five killings in five days. To deal with the rash of murders, the police department called most of its 21 homicide detectives needed extra officers to secure crime scenes.
Of the 19 murders on record this year, only two arrests have been made.
'A good, safe city'
Despite the grim statistics, Coun. Moe Banga, a former police officer, remains steadfast in his belief that the city is safe.
"The numbers between the cities is not helpful in providing any explanation for Edmonton's current situation," said Banga. "Different cities have different circumstances, and we need solutions that are specific to our own unique circumstance."
Edmonton had 31 homicides last year, a number police considered average. Calgary police investigated 40 murders. Province-wide, RCMP investigated a record 65 murders outside of the two major cities.
Earlier this month, Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht said there was no clear pattern driving the recent rise in the city's homicide rate, but noted that most victims were involved in "high-risk" lifestyles.
Banga echoed those assertions during his interview with CBC Edmonton.
"These people did live a very vulnerable lifestyle, and when you live that kind of lifestyle you live in much higher danger," said Banga, who stressed the numbers won't damge Edmonton's public image.
"We have number one institutions in health and education, and other sectors in the city, and those are the things that attract people to come here, or move here permanently. We don't have concerns about people not coming to, or not wanting to come to Edmonton.
"Edmonton is a good, safe city."