Police in Edmonton are “not entirely” responsible for a rise in gun violence, but a pair of local criminologists agree that now is a good time to review how they prevent and respond to shootings.
That reaction comes a day after 41-year-old Harp Uppal and his 11-year-old son Gavin were shot and killed at a shopping complex at 50 Street and Ellerslie Road.
“There is no police service in the world that can prevent all criminal incidents. It’s not possible. So this is not entirely on the Edmonton Police Service,” said Temitope Oriola, a criminologist at University of Alberta.
“But it’s important to recognize that more intel gathering, community-level interaction, to be able to identify and deal with criminal actors and syndicates needs to happen.”
The targeted shooting of a child and his father, in a very public place, in daylight is “shocking, scary and extremely tragic,” a former member of the EPS’ gang unit said.
“We’ve had gang violence in Edmonton for a long time,” said Dan Jones. He’s now retired from policing and the chair of justice studies at Norquest College.
“This level of gang violence, where families are being targeted, has not been seen in Edmonton as far as I can remember.”
This shooting is “extremely traumatizing” for both police and anyone who witnessed it, Jones said, particularly a friend of Gavin’s who was at the scene, but physically unharmed.
“I’m thinking about the members who had to go see this scene…the community members who were around it and the young survivor in the car, [who is] going to need a lot of help for a long time,” Jones said.
In the case of Uppal, police said he was well-known to them and had attempts on his life before.
“We had worked very hard over the years to try to warn and gave him opportunities to step out of that lifestyle and keep him and his family safe,” Acting Supt. Colin Derksen told reporters.
193 SHOOTING IN EDMONTON AS OF NOV. 7
There were a total of 13 shootings in Edmonton last month, 10 of which are believed to be targeted and seven resulted in injuries.
As of Nov. 7, there were 193 shootings reported to EPS so far this year, a 46 per cent increase over the same period in 2022.
Jones suggests EPS may need to reorganize resources and/or establish a task force to clamp down on gun and gang violence in Edmonton.
Oriola pointed out that EPS is one of the best funded police services in the world, with a budget that is set to rise again in 2024.
On top of more gang intel, he suggests an independent external review of EPS and a “mop up” of high-calibre weapons in the form of a buy-back program.
“Experiences in other jurisdictions, including the United States, suggests that we can in fact mop up some, not all, but some of those weapons,” he said. “That is long overdue.”
As for why there’s more gun violence on the streets of the Alberta capital, Oriola believes it’s a complicated formula including unemployment, lack of housing, foodbank usage and population growth.
“We’re beginning to have a modicum of big city problems. This is the burden of growth,” He said.
“What is surprising in this case is the astronomical rate in which shootings are happening. And therefore, I am troubled by that.”
‘UNWAVERING TRUST’ IN EPS’ EFFORTS: MAYOR
A spokesperson for Edmonton mayor Amarjeet Sohi said he was not available for an interview Friday but a statement was sent on his behalf.
“My heartfelt condolences go out to the grieving families and community members,” it said.
“Amid rising concerns about gun violence, I want to express my unwavering trust in the Edmonton Police Service’s ongoing efforts to bring those involved to justice.”
A spokesperson for Alberta Public Safety and Emergency Services Minister Mike Ellis ignored CTV News Edmonton’s requests for an interview, but sent a statement.
“It is inconceivable for a child to be killed in such a tragic manner, and on behalf of Alberta’s government and all Edmontonians, I extend my deepest condolences to the loved ones at this difficult time,” he said.
“Alberta’s government supports the Edmonton Police Service as they work to keep Albertans safe.”
Premier Danielle Smith also expressed concern about “the rise in gun violence in our neighbourhoods” and expressed support for EPS in a post on X that did not include any mention of policy or funding changes.
The UCP campaigned on a promise to hire 100 officers in Edmonton and Calgary, but the NDP says the government has failed to follow through.
“When asked in the legislature how many of those officers have been hired, the answer was zero,” said Irfan Sabir, the NDP’s critic on public safety.
Police said the motive for the killing of Uppal and his son is not yet known, but the father was “high up in the gang drug world.”
No arrests have been made in the case.
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Chelan Skulski
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