Edmonton homicides hit 19, police get help
Edmonton’s homicide total has risen to 19 this year, and police say an increase in gun crime and victims’ ties to drugs and “street level” crime have contributed to the body count.
Police Supt. Mark Neufeld spoke Friday about the recent rash of homicides, the same day it was announced that another two deaths are being investigated as murders.
Of this year’s 19 confirmed homicides, 10 have been the result of gunshots.
“There’s certainly more guns on the street. Our organized crime expert reports that gun seizures are up,” Neufeld said. “These are not guns that are grandpa’s .22 stolen off the farm. These are high-end guns and that is definitely a concern for us.”
Neufeld said increasing break and enters and weapon smuggling over the Canadian border are two ways more guns are ending up on the streets.
Last year, 12 out of 31 homicides were gun-related.
Aside from the shooting deaths of Irfan Ahmed Qureshi and Suzanne Marie Tran, which are being investigated as a double homicide, Neufeld said none of the killings are connected. However, he said the victims have tended to share certain characteristics.
“What continues to be present, however, are the identified risk factors related to substance abuse and drug-related conflict. Also, the tragic events continue to involve individuals who have been criminally active and have criminal associates and friends,” Neufeld said.
He said “very few” of the deaths have been gang-related and that the conflict involving drugs isn’t happening at a high level.
“It’s just people who are having a difficult time coping with life and there’s conflict around that. And it’s resulting in deaths and it’s tragic,” Neufeld said.
Four of the homicide victims have been women and 15 are men. Police believe domestic violence was a factor in two cases.
On Friday, Edmonton reached the same number of homicides as this time in 2011, when the city experienced a record-setting 48 homicides.
At this time in 2015, Edmonton police had six homicide investigations on the books.
The 2011 workload resulted in 10 additional detectives being added to the homicide section. Neufeld said those additional resources have been helpful.
“It made the first 19 homicide investigations of this year easier to deal with than the first 19 that we dealt with in 2011,” Neufeld said.
Officers have been borrowed from across the force, and even the RCMP, on an ad hoc basis, to help with the recent rash of killings.
Five deaths have been ruled homicides in the last week alone.
Suspects have been arrested and charged in two of the 19 deaths this year, Neufeld said.