HALIFAX - Halifax’s police chief isn’t dwelling on a new report from Statistics Canada suggesting Halifax had the highest rate of firearm-related violence in Canada in 2012.
“I’m concerned as a Haligonian and I’m concerned as the chief of police,” said Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais Wednesday. “But I also realize that we have to take a look at that in terms of the year-over-year, and things have been going down and things have been improving.”
The “Firearms and violent crime in Canada, 2012” report shows both the number of victims and the rate of firearm-related violent crime in Canada fell by more than one-quarter between 2009 and 2012.
Among Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs,) Halifax had 41 firearm-related violent crimes per 100,000 population – the highest in Canada – and Moncton had 39.
Blais said the number of homicides and gun-related homicides have fallen steadily since then, while the number of guns seized by police has climbed.
“It was prior to our Guns and Gangs unit being fully operational and having a better handle on what was going on with regard to firearms,” he said, adding community-based programs have resulted in more family members intervening when young men start carrying weapons.
“They are actively engaging with these young men,” he added. “One individual told me their concern is that we have a whole generation of young men that we’re losing to this gangster mentality.”
Blais said gun-related violence is a small part of the total violent crime picture in Halifax, and tends to be confined to non-random violence among career criminals.
However, it remains a big concern for police because of the risk to innocent bystanders.
“That’s why we are always concerned about that one shooting. One homicide is one too many,” he said. “Our overall goal is to reduce it down to zero, but realistically we realize that we have to continue the path that we’ve taken so far and reduce the number of crimes incrementally.”
So far in 2014 there have been eight shootings, according to police. There were 53 in 2013 and 56 in 2012.