NEWS

Wave of gun violence concerns SFU criminologist

01/18/2013 01:15 EST | Updated 03/19/2013 05:12 EDT
A Simon Fraser University criminologist says a wave of 10 shootings since Sunday, six of them fatal, are not likely connected but are nevertheless a major concern to the public.

Dr. Robert M. Gordon, director of SFU's School of Criminology, says police need to find any common root causes behind the shootings, even though the sudden spike in gun violence is not necessarily a pattern.

"I don't think that all of this stuff is linked together — certainly the police are not saying that that is the case, but we should be concerned to find out what is behind the shootings — and the stabbings," Gordon said.

"We should be concerned because these things don't happen very often, and we should be concerned to try and find out precisely what's been going on."

Four men were injured in the latest shooting incident, at a banquet hall in Richmond Wednesday evening. Police have one suspect in custody, but have yet to say anything about a motive that led to the violence.

Several of the shootings earlier in the week have already been linked an ongoing feud between several rival gangs, but even in those cases, police have said they're likely not all connected.

Cycle of gun violence

The last time there was a similar outbreak of violence in the Vancouver area was almost exactly a year ago. Starting on Christmas Eve 2011, there were five shootings over four days that left four people dead.

As the police investigations progressed, they announced that it was unlikely any of those shootings were connected.

And while the recent shootings like the one on Wednesday night at the Richmond banquet hall may worry the general public, but it's not random violence, according to RCMP spokesman Sgt. Peter Thiessen.

"In this particular incident it was within the confines of a private function which certainly doesn't make it better, but certainly the risks are somewhat minimized to the broader community," said Thiessen.

Police say from 2006 to 2011, about 20 percent of all homicides in B.C. were gang-related, and that number has been decreasing since a peak in 2009.

Drug trade connects some homicides

Gordon says sudden jumps in homicides are unpredictable, except when it comes to the drug trade.

"There you can draw lines between people and between events. But there is also the purely coincidental outbursts that occur from time to time," he notes.

One thing is consistent when it comes to homicides: each violent crime requires a thorough investigation to follow leads, find suspects, and ultimately provide enough evidence to lead to a conviction in court.

That requires a lot of investigators and the recent shootings will put pressure on police personnel and budgets, says Gordon.

"When you get a cluster like this, it's certainly mounting the overtime, let's put it that way, and they will be hard-pressed to deal with these," said Gordon.

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