Deadly links: Guns, drugs, home in­va­sions

Ten shoot­ings in a month: Po­lice wor­ried by ‘an in­creas­ing trend’

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - nor­eilly@thes­ 905-526-3199 | @Ni­coleatTheSpec NICOLE O’REILLY

Hamil­ton po­lice say they’re deal­ing with a grow­ing num­ber of home in­va­sions, in­clud­ing some that have led to shoot­ings within a clus­ter of gun vi­o­lence in the city re­cently.

“I can say there is an in­creas­ing trend in home in­va­sion rob­beries,” said spokesper­son Steve Wel­ton.

Of the 13 shoot­ings so far this year — in­clud­ing 10 in the last month alone — two hap­pened dur­ing vi­o­lent home in­va­sions. In an­other case, a res­i­dence was hit with gun­fire just four days af­ter it had been the tar­get of a home in­va­sion.

Of the 22 shoot­ings last year, four hap­pened dur­ing home in­va­sions, Wel­ton said. And just like the other shoot­ings, most home in­va­sions have a drug link, he added.

“With home in­va­sions, typ­i­cally (the house or peo­ple) are tar­geted be­cause of in­volve­ment in the il­le­gal drug trade or other crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity,” he said, adding that some­times there is a con­flict, or “beef,” be­tween peo­ple in­volved in crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.

A com­mon prob­lem for po­lice is a lack of co-op­er­a­tion, Wel­ton said.

Guns are be­com­ing more pro­lific in Cana­dian cities, in­clud­ing Hamil­ton, in large part be­cause of a “cul­tural change” that has more peo­ple want­ing il­le­gal guns for pro­tec­tion and be­cause of the “cool” im­age they project in cer­tain cir­cles, said Chris­tian Le­uprecht, a Queen’s Univer­sity and Royal Mil­i­tary Col­lege of Canada po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor who stud­ies gun smug­gling.

Guns are eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble and have been for a long time, Le­uprecht said. And now more peo­ple, es­pe­cially those linked to the drug trade, want them.

“Once there is a pro­lif­er­a­tion of firearms, they’re more likely to be used in an of­fence.”

Of the 10 shoot­ings in the last month, charges have only been laid in one case af­ter two teens were al­legedly caught run­ning from a home in­va­sion on Holly Av­enue on Tues­day. A 46-year-old Hamil­ton man suf­fered life-threat­en­ing gun­shot in­juries and three oth­ers were as­saulted. Po­lice are still search­ing for three oth­ers seen run­ning.

Two guns were seized in con­nec­tion with this in­ci­dent, in­clud­ing an as­sault ri­fle that po­lice re­leased an im­age of Fri­day.

For those who work with at-risk youth, shoot­ings and the ease with which kids can ac­cess guns is alarm­ing.

“I think a lot of kids are afraid ... they’re try­ing to pro­tect them­selves and their friends and their fam­ily,” said Kelly Burke, who is with the John Howard So­ci­ety.

Burke is team lead with the so­ci­ety’s Youth at Risk Devel­op­ment (YARD) pro­gram, which works with youth be­tween 12 and 24 in­volved or at risk of be­ing in­volved in gang life.

Since YARD be­gan about three years ago, it has had 700 re­fer­rals, 400 par­tic­i­pants and 100 young peo­ple com­plete the pro­gram, which helps par­tic­i­pants re­shape what they think about com­mu­nity, vi­o­lence and money.

“It’s alarm­ing and it speaks to the need for pro­grams like this in the com­mu­nity,” Burke said. The pro­gram’s fund­ing ends Au­gust 2018 and the team is work­ing to find more.

While there is a stricter le­gal def­i­ni­tion of or­ga­nized crime in court, for the John Howard So­ci­ety a gang is three or more peo­ple com­mit­ting crimes, in­clud­ing rob­beries and home in­va­sions, to make money.

Burke said young peo­ple of­ten look to gangs for a sense of be­long­ing, fam­ily and fi­nan­cial gain. But they try to show youth that when prob­lems arise, like be­ing ar­rested, ev­ery­body runs.

Kids can even get swept up in gangs and crim­i­nal life­style with­out even re­al­iz­ing it.

“It’s easy to make a few poor de­ci­sions and get caught up with­out re­ally know­ing,” Burke said.

This is true on so­cial me­dia as well, where kids of­ten un­der­es­ti­mate the con­se­quences of what they say.

While the spike in shoot­ings is con­cern­ing, Le­uprecht noted there is typ­i­cally lit­tle risk for a ran­dom mem­ber of the pub­lic to be in­jured.

Crim­i­nal groups buy their guns in the U.S., of­ten from Ohio where there are lax gun laws, or from Amer­i­cans who sell in Canada, he said. Cana­dian gangs and drug deal­ers tend not to sell guns be­cause they don’t want to arm their com­pe­ti­tion, he added.

Le­uprecht de­scribed two phe­nom­ena for drug dis­tri­bu­tion in Canada. The first is bik­ers, who are known to con­trol ev­ery as­pect of drugs from grow­ing to sale and are of­ten qui­eter and harder to catch.

Then there are other or­ga­nized crime groups, some­times di­vided on fam­ily or eth­nic lines, who have a de­fined chunk of the mar­ket. They may buy drugs off one group and then get an­other to sell.

The street-level deal­ers and youth in gangs or gan­g­like groups are the very bot­tom of this chain.

Yet they are also the most likely to get caught up in shoot­ings and get ar­rested, Le­uprecht said.

Any­one with in­for­ma­tion about any shoot­ing, home in­va­sion or other sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity is asked to call Hamil­ton po­lice. To re­main anony­mous, call Crime Stop­pers at 1-800-222-8477.


A woman at this home on West 5th Street was wounded in gun­fire there Thurs­day morn­ing.


This is one of two firearms po­lice seized as part of the Holly Av­enue in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

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