Community action helped drop ‘murder capital’ title

The community of Abbotsford, B.C., has shed the title of homicide capital of Canada, and police are crediting a provocative campaign against gangs as making the difference.

ABBOTSFORD, B.C. — The community of Abbotsford, B.C., has shed the title of homicide capital of Canada, and police are crediting a provocative campaign against gangs as making the difference.

The Fraser Valley city of 137,000 went from recording 11 murders — most gang-related — in 2009 to none in 2011 after four deaths in 2010, said Const. Ian MacDonald.

Based on the Statistics Canada figures for communities with a population of over 100,000, Abbotsford was on top on a per-capita basis in 2009.

Edmonton now has the dubious distinction as Canada’s murder capital, posting 47 slayings last year, say police in that city.

“What we were fortunate to have was the support of civic leaders and the citizens when we brought forward the message, which was we’ve got a problem with gangs,” MacDonald said.

“There are communities that will stick their head into the sand or will pour their money into a tourism campaign to try to convince people that, ‘Yeah, we’ve got a little bit of an issue but it’s still a place to come and visit,”’ he said.

Along with its prevention program that targeted schools, police formed a gang suppression unit to deal with gangs.

The message hit home for residents and police when two high school students turned up dead in 2009 after getting involved as “foot soldiers” with rival gangs that included the United Nations Gang and the Red Scorpions, the gang police say is led by the infamous Bacon brothers.

MacDonald said the students were victims two and four in a year that would end with 11 people dead, many shot in public places.

“When you start seeing kids who are 17 and 18 years, just at the beginning points of their life and their adulthood and not necessarily knowing what they’re involved in getting taken out, that’s when everybody in our department and everybody in our community stood up and went, ‘This is different, we’ve got to do something.”’

In May 2009, Chief Bob Rich and then-mayor George Peary issued a public warning about gang violence in the community, and police went to work to spread the message to high school students who could be gang recruits.

During the one-hour presentations, they used social media, videos and a poster with a picture of a hearse and a casket, along with the caption: “You can’t pimp this ride.”

“We went in with, ‘We need to start a dialogue, we need to listen to what you guys have to say and we know that every day you’re making good choices and on those occasions when you’re tempted to make a choice that you’re not certain about, here are some facts. And that was to, unfortunately, trace some of those tragedies that were part of those bad years.”

The department spread its anti-gang message on drugs, guns and profit to parents and to middle and elementary schools and the public, with 25,000 people attending the presentation at dozens of forums — “anywhere that would take us,” MacDonald said.

They set up a youth help line and also targeted gangster girlfriends who were attracted to bad-boy gangbangers and their seemingly attractive lifestyle.

Police also formed Business Watch so business owners could share information about shoplifters and who was buying their goods if gang activity was suspected.

And the department created its own version of Bar Watch, also used in other communities, so bar owners could work together to keep out gangsters.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fracking caused March 2019 earthquake near Sylvan Lake, say scientists

4.18 earthquake south of Sylvan Lake rattled doors and windows as far as Red Deer

Possible Red Deer cougar sighting creating a stir

Many have posted their own cougar stories online since Advocate story ran last Friday

Red Deer’s emergency management team is watching to learn how Newfoundland handles its massive snowfall

“We’ve had extreme snowfalls before,” says co-ordinator Karen Mann — and will again

Red Deer city council wants answers before re-zoning for women’s shelter expansion

Is the creek escarpment stable enough for construction?

Soldiers trade rifles for snow shovels to help dig out St. John’s

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Military personnel armed with shovels spread out across… Continue reading

WATCH: Canadian kid shovelling snow video goes viral

Rory might just be Canada’s most popular toddler right now, thanks to… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Jan. 22 Downtown House Senior Center (5414 43 St.) in Red Deer… Continue reading

David Marsden: Warm tales about the cold

The recent deep freeze has rocked all of us. Every Red Deer… Continue reading

Soldiers trade rifles for snow shovels to help dig out St. John’s

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Military personnel armed with shovels spread out across… Continue reading

Canadian airlines feel the pressure of flight-shaming and the ‘Greta effect’

MONTREAL — Swedish may not be the lingua franca of the aviation… Continue reading

Trump thanks farmers for backing him through China trade war

AUSTIN, Texas — President Donald Trump thanked farmers Sunday for supporting him… Continue reading

CETA can serve as template for post-Brexit Canada-U.K. trade deal

CALGARY — Canada’s trade agreement with the European Union should serve as… Continue reading

MEC cuts costs, boosts perks in effort to turn around struggling retailer

VANCOUVER — Mountain Equipment Co-op is making major changes as it “needs… Continue reading

Most Read