CALGARY – Speaking to a recent spate of gun and gang violence in the city, Calgary Police Chief Roger Chaffin said Thursday he’s seen “big increases” in the presence of weapons on the street, and warned against the changing nature of gangs.
“The difference is, how difficult it is to notice it,” he said, comparing gang members past and present. “They could be standing beside you, in the same bar as you…you wouldn’t necessarily say, ‘hey there’s a gang member standing next to you.’”
“They’re not beholden to each other like in the past…they tend to go to each other by need.”
Chaffin said police are in the midst of five major operations dealing specifically with guns and gangs, and 85 other operations related to crime in the city.
“Rest assured that the service’s intent in this is to identify these people that are doing this, to arrest them, to put them before the courts and the justice system, and to lock them away. These people need to be behind bars; they need to be away from the community.”
WATCH: Chief Cst. Roger Chaffin responds to the recent violence in Calgary, Nov. 5, 2015.
The press conference came a day after a man was rushed to hospital after a shooting in the community of Marlborough Park. One witness, who did not wish to be identified, told Global News he heard several shots fired, at which point he left his house and saw the victim covered in blood and sitting inside a vehicle. Shortly after the attack, armed officers were seen performing what appeared to be a takedown along Marlborough Drive N.E.
Watch below: Calgary police investigate another shooting, this time in Marlborough Park. Global’s Bindu Suri reports.
Man rushed to hospital after Marlborough Park shooting
“Obviously when shots are fired in a residential community, it puts everybody at risk,” said Chaffin. “Bullets…go through walls and places and it’s not acceptable–not acceptable for us, and not acceptable for the city.”
Staff Sgt. Quinn Jacques of the guns and gangs unit said recent violence, while based on drugs, also raises issues of territory and disrespect.
“It’s new that we see criminals bypass all reasonable methods of settling a dispute and escalate right to guns. We saw it last night and the night before,” he said, referring to Marlborough Park and another shooting in Panorama Hills on Tuesday.
Jacques said using the term “gangs” is simplifying what’s going on in the city.
“They don’t view themselves as gangsters…That’s a handle we put on them,” he said. “They cooperate with each other for a brief amount of time and move on. They are, I hate to say it, but they are thrivers. They develop relationships with who they need for what they need, and once that is no longer of value to them, they move on.
“The old days of ‘blood brothers forever’ and the signs—we are not seeing that in Alberta anymore.”
Watch below: Staff Sgt. Quinn Jacques of the Guns and Gangs Unit talks to media regarding the recent violence in Calgary on Thursday.
Chaffin said police are currently “looking at” around 50 to 100 people who may be involved in gang activity, but emphasized it’s a “fluid group.” He said there’s been some movement between the Lower Mainland in British Columbia and Calgary.
Police are also predicting an 80 per cent uptick in their seizure of weapons this year, which he called alarming.
“Our homicides related to gang problems last year were, I think, one, and this year we’re up to five,” Chaffin said. He said what’s also alarming are the many incidents where people could have died.
Chaffin said he didn’t have scientific data to back it up, but assumes there is a relationship between the struggling economy and the current crime trends. He said despite all this, Calgary is still an “incredibly safe city for people to live in.”
“What’s going on is a new trend in a) presence of weapons and the propensity to use those weapons and just the day to day activities those criminals have with each other. It is a cause for us to re-look at ourselves, to ensure a professional police service… is on the street and it’s doing everything it can to get in front of it and create long-term solutions.”
READ MORE: Police searching for suspect in Panorama Hills shooting
The chief said he wouldn’t “insult the intelligence” of residents and suggest more arrests were the only answer, but said enforcement plays an important role.
“There are people that need to be arrested, put before the courts and locked away in order to really create safety. That’s something that has to happen…that is certainly one of our major goals.”
Police suggested community members who want to help can make sure they’re locking their own cars and homes, and make sure to call police whenever they see suspicious activity.
“The real message to any community is whether you’re part of offending group or just innocent people, is these are real lives that are at risk, and people have to understand how serious it is to use weapons like they are with such random recklessness.”