Chief Bergen says increase in crime related to ‘more readily available firearms’, gang conflict

(Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Police chief Jon Bergen addressed the media on Wednesday morning regarding the police service’s recent efforts to address violent crime concerns in the city.

Last week, the service announced they would be launching a new crime suppression unit to adapt to recent crime trends, more specifically an increase in gun, gang, and property crimes.

Bergen says the spike in crime is believed to be related to fallout in different groups. He said the police see firearms being ‘more readily available’ as part of the issue.

“Over the last few years we’ve watched a significant increase in the amount of firearms that are unlawfully possessed, unlawfully altered and unlawfully carried. These are typically firearms that have been altered from their original state where they’ve been either cut down for concealment purposes but carried illegally, possessed illegally” said Bergen.

There have been 115 firearm seizures, and that figure suggests there are more out there according to Bergen.

“In some of these incidents just the possession of the firearm has led to the outcomes of the violence and I think that as we continue to seize these illegal firearms from any illegal possession I think that that’s important work that has to continue to occur.”

Bergen says the police believe a number of the recent incidents that involve firearms are gang-related. He went further to say that the police does see conflict within groups as well as within one individual group, but he doesn’t consider it to be a gang war at this time.

Just last week, police were dispatched to a residence in the 1700 block of 14th Street West around 1 a.m. An 18-year-old man was found dead in the home. Police have charged an 18-year-old woman with manslaughter while using a firearm in connection with the man’s death.

Prior to that, there were three separate shootings incidents in the city. One incident is being investigated as a homicide.

Police board chair Sheryl Kimbley said that the board supports the chief’s and his administrative team’s efforts to address violent crime incidents.

“We’re all very worried and we have a diverse board that is ensuring that your needs and concerns are heard as well as the members. As parents and community members we want to offer our thoughts and condolences to the families who are struggling with the serious injury or loss of a family member,” Kimbley said during the press conference.