The community needs to be at the forefront in battling gun and gang violence in Calgary, said police Chief Mark Neufeld.
One Calgary city councillor representing the northeast agreed but said there’s even more to the issue and he’s continuing efforts to bring together different levels of government to help.
Earlier this week, Chief Neufeld spoke with reporters about a recent string of deaths in the city, two of which involved guns. While underscoring that they were isolated but targeted incidents, the Chief said public help in investigating and ultimately solving these crimes is critical.
“This is not, uniformly, a policing problem,” Neufeld said.
“We know there are people that know what’s going on inside of these groups. We know there are people who know that their loved ones are involved in high-risk activity.”
Neufeld also said the average Calgarian who sees suspicious activity or if they pick up a license plate number or vehicle description, need to contact police.
“We really need that information. Sometimes what may seem like a very small and insignificant piece of information may be one more piece in a puzzle that actually helps to shape a picture of what’s gone on in these type of incidents,” he said.
“It can never be underestimated, the importance of that.”
Town hall held last summer amid rise in Calgary gun violence
Ward 5 Coun. George Chahal hosted a community safety forum last summer, hoping to identify, and ultimately address, some of the gaps that exist in communities that influence the escalation of gun crimes in Calgary – specifically the northeast.
In October, Chahal, along with then-federal-Liberal candidate Kent Hehr, and Josh Ng-Kamstra, called on all levels of government to work together to solve the issue.
Chahal said progress has been made on initiatives that came out of the town hall meeting, meanwhile, the violence is popping up in other parts of the city. He pointed to the recent Saddleridge homicide, but then noted the home shot up in Auburn Bay and the shooting death on Home Rd and 16 Avenue in the city’s northwest.
“This is a city-wide issue. It seemed to be a little bit more isolated in north, northeast Calgary but we’ve seen a number of shootings throughout the city and that’s a deep concern for me in the safety Calgarians,” Chahal told LiveWire Calgary.
Chahal reiterated the gaps he sees in federal gun control legislation, in the criminal code and the international and interprovincial black market gun trade , but he said the most important part is in the prevention end.
“When we think about and talk about how we tackled drugs in schools and how we inform students at a young age, we also need to start talking about guns and the impact of guns at a young age,” he said.
‘The fear of what might be true’
Chahal said communities do need to play a role in stemming the gun and gang violence in Calgary. He understands that sometimes there’s a reluctance to step forward.
“That’s the education component of it. But we’ve been talking about that significantly throughout the year,” he said.
There’s a fear that exists among some citizens, Chahal said.
“There’s also the fear of what may be true, right? Or is it going to implicate somebody in their family, one’s siblings or children and, and getting over that fear as well,” he said.
“Then we look at a lot of new Canadian communities. One issue is they come from places in the world where they didn’t have a lot of trust for the police. So, it’s building those connections and relationships as well.”
Chahal is continuing work with stakeholders and once more information is gathered, he hopes to craft a notice of motion for council committee to start addressing some of these challenges.
“The root of the problem is, why are individuals getting in this type of lifestyle? Why are they using guns and targeting people? How do we prevent that from occurring? How do we get those guns off the street? And how do we get those individuals out of those types of lifestyles to begin with?” Chahal said.
“That’s where we have to focus a lot of our attention.”