'Everybody is worried about the guns': Threat of armed robbery looms for Saskatoon store owner

A recent Statistics Canada report paints a dark picture of gun violence in Saskatchewan.

Jamal Uddin owns Westmount Foods, a once-popular target for armed thieves

Thieves trashed his store during a burglary, but Jamal Uddin has so far avoided being held up. (CBC)

Jamal Uddin's store has been robbed, but at least he has never had a gun shoved in his face. The man who sold him Westmount Foods wasn't so lucky.

The previous owner of the business, located on Saskatoon's west side, was robbed at gunpoint four times in the span of a couple of months in late 2015. In 2016, he sold the store to Uddin.

Robberies are on Uddin's mind. His store has been burglarized twice in the past 10 days. 

"Everybody is worried about the guns," he said. "If anybody has guns, they think I'm the powerful guy."

'Significant emotional and physical impact'

Statistics Canada recently released a bulletin on firearms and violent crime across the country in 2016, the same year Uddin bought Westmount Foods.

The report says that firearm-related crime has a real impact on the people involved.

"It nevertheless has a significant emotional and physical impact on victims, families, and communities," it said.

Saskatchewan figures prominently in the report.

  • Saskatchewan (56 victims per 100,000 population) and Manitoba (48 per 100,00) recorded the highest rates of firearm-related violence among the provinces in 2016.
  • Regina (59 per 100,00 population) and Winnipeg (50 per 100,000) had the highest firearm-related violent crime among census metropolitan areas.
  • In 2016, Saskatchewan reported a rate of rifle or shotgun-related violent crime of 19 victims per 100,000. This is four times higher than the national rate.
  • Among the provinces, Saskatchewan recorded the highest rates in rural areas with 68 victims per 100,000 population.

Police say gun violence linked to drugs, gangs

"Firearm related violence is certainly on the rise. We're seeing more incidents with firearms or replica firearms," said Inspector Dale Solie with Saskatoon Police.

"It's a trend that we've kind of been seeing in Saskatoon."

Police training involves teaching officer safety. Part of that is the realization that there is no longer such thing as a typical traffic stop or door-knock. Officers now deal with the possibility of guns in the equation.

I saw in video here, he had a gun.- Jamal Uddin

Much of the firearm-related crime police see is related to drugs and gang activity, Solie said. The guns typically come from out of province or from break-and-enters.

On this front, police continue to urge legitimate gun owners to properly store their weapons. Solie said this continues to be a tough sell.

"It's one of those things I think people say, 'It can't happen to me.'  Until it does happen to you," he said.

Uddin says no armed robberies since he took over

Jamal Uddin said that he's had no armed robberies since taking over the store.

But, in the last week of July, it was burglarized twice. The thieves trashed the inside of the store to get cigarettes, lottery tickets and into the cash register.

Uddin has a surveillance camera in the alley behind the story.  The man inside the store had an accomplice.

"I saw in video here, he had a gun."

About the Author

Dan Zakreski

Dan Zakreski is a reporter for CBC Saskatoon.