Calgary police saw more shortened rifles and a spike in shootings in 2017
In 2017, Calgary experienced its highest number of shootings in five years, with police noticing a spike in the prevalence of shortened rifles, a police report found.
The Calgary Police Service’s annual report, to be presented to a city council committee Wednesday, also noted “person crimes” — such as homicides, sex offences, robberies and assaults, among other things — were happening more often and with more seriousness.
A file photo of a March 27 incident where a Calgary police officer was shot. In 2017, Calgary experienced its highest number of shootings in five years. (ELIZABETH CAMERON / STARMETRO CALGARY)
“While the number of homicides has decreased slightly, almost 90 per cent of the incidents involved either a gun or an edged weapon,” the report reads.
The uptick in gun crime is part of a trend police are seeing south of the border as well, said Les Kaminski, president of the Calgary Police Association, the union for the city’s officers.
Apprehending someone with a gun used to be an “anomaly,” he said. “Now it’s more and more commonplace.”
The report noted a “trend” of offenders choosing to shorten legal, readily available long guns to make them easier to conceal.
“These rifles, in their stock form, are non-restricted and relatively inexpensive to purchase,” the report reads. “In addition, the sale of non-restricted firearms are no longer recorded or tracked, making subsequent illegal trafficking undetectable.”
Kaminski suggested the statistics may be linked to Calgary’s struggles with gangs and drug-related crime in recent years. The police report, too, noted that nearly all of last year’s shootings were gang-related.
“There’s always been a market for guns,” Kaminski said. “A lot of the time, it has to do with the gangs protecting territory.”
Calgary police spokesperson Emma Poole said the statistics are connected to the easy availability of methamphetamine — a drug linked to increased crime rates — in the city. Though seizures of the drug in 2017 were down slightly from the year before, they remain well above the five-year average.
“People tend to focus on fentanyl because it kills people, but methamphetamine drives the crime rate,” Poole said.
Kaminski said he wants to see Calgary police move toward addressing the root causes of problems, something he said would help lower the rates of personal and property crimes in the city.
“I don’t think resources are being allocated to where they should be allocated,” he said. “Our poor patrol guys are being run into the ground.”
In a statement, police Chief Roger Chaffin said it’s no secret that the service has resource-related “challenges.” Though a recent budget increase will allow Calgary police to hire more staff, Chaffin said, the service still has a lower ratio of officers to members of the public than other comparable cities, and is constantly re-evaluating the situation.
“However, when you take resources from one area and put them into another, there are always consequences that have to be evaluated and taken into consideration,” said Chaffin.
“Given the budget allocation at the end of 2018, we will be able to deploy additional resources toward the end of this year and will be looking for opportunities to add resources in 2019.”