Street checks down 48%, gun violence on the rise, Edmonton police tell commission

The number of street checks done by officers, as well as the rising amount of gun violence in the city, was on the Edmonton Police Commission’s agenda on Thursday.

The group heard that Edmonton police officers did 3,591 street checks between Jan. 1 and June 30 of this year.

Over the same time period in 2019, 6,889 street checks were done, which means the practice is down 47.9 per cent.

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A committee reviewed a portion of these checks and found that 173 of the 188 reviewed were found to be compliant.

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The biggest reason for the non-compliant police checks was that the reporting format was wrong — an administrative error.

Read more: Alberta bans police carding immediately; street checks will have new rules

On Thursday, the provincial government announced it is banning the practice of carding — where police officers stop citizens and ask for their information — effective immediately.

When it comes to street checks, police can only collect personal information from members of the public in special circumstances, such as asking about a crime that has taken place.

According to the government, all interactions will be voluntary and officers must make it clear that citizens have no obligation to provide their information or answer questions.

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Alberta banning police carding, street checks getting new rules

In a report presented to the Edmonton Police Commission on Thursday, the Edmonton Police Service outlined how the city has continued to see a lot of gun incidents in recent years.

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“There has been a proliferation of firearm-related activity in EPS jurisdiction,” the report explained, “with firearms seizures increasing each year from 2017 (1,016), 2018 (1,030), 2019 (1,189) and 2020 had 673 firearms seized to date.”

Read more: Edmonton police chief calls recent rash of gun violence ‘unacceptable’

So far this year, Edmonton police have confirmed 106 shooting events within the city. Fifty-seven people were injured, the report stated.

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Since a number of the recent shootings are still under investigation, Deputy Chief Kevin Brezinski said the EPS won’t disclose who is behind them.

“I wouldn’t want to reveal who they are. We do know certainly there are people of interest who are involved in a number of shootings in the city.”

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He said there is a combination of organized crime and gang shootings but there have also been some random shootings.

“Some [gangs] that are named and others that are not necessarily — we don’t give them a name. They are an organized group of people that are involved in the drug trafficking trade,” Brezinski said.

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One of the tools that should help Edmonton police crack down on gun violence is the formation of a forensic identification unit.

In September 2019, EPS and RCMP, under the Gun Crime Violence Reduction Strategy (GCVRS), developed a Firearms Investigation Unit.

That unit has consulted on 106 shooting events, 29 firearms-related interviews, arrested seven people, laid 36 criminal charges, seized 37 firearms, seized 4,528 rounds of ammunition, recovered 14 trafficked firearms, conducted a wiretap investigation involving firearms, and completed 15 firearm examinations. There are currently 72 firearm examinations assigned, and 51 yet to be completed, the report said.

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Read more: Kenney slams federal gun ban, says it ‘penalizes law-abiding gun owners’ not ‘drug gangs’

In June, the government of Alberta announced the justice department was working on a plan with the Calgary Police Service, Edmonton Police Service, RCMP and Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams to create a firearms testing process at the existing lab in Calgary and the facility being planned in Edmonton.

Under the current processes, police forces outside Calgary rely on the RCMP’s national forensic laboratory and the wait can be up to eight months, Premier Jason Kenney said.

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The EPS report presented to the commission said it’s expected that the Firearms Examination Unit, “this key investigative support service, should be available with a base level of staff early in the new year.”

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“The FEU (Firearms Examination Unit) and CSIU (Crime Scene Investigation unit) will continue to work with the RCMP National Forensic Laboratory Service to provide these essential forensic services,” the report explained.

“Despite some challenges throughout 2020, the development of the FEU is continuing to establish and test the most efficient operating processes in order to provide first-class standard for both criminal investigations and prosecution in Edmonton and throughout Alberta.”

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In June, the justice minister said the Alberta lab would have the capacity to test up to 750 firearms each year and that currently, Alberta does about 600 tests a year.

The province explained a legal requirement for prosecuting gun crimes involves proving that a seized weapon meets the Criminal Code definition of a firearm by having a barrel and the ability to fire a projectile capable of causing serious injury or death.

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— With files from Kendra Slugoski, Global News

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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