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St. Albert sees armed robberies rise in 2023

RCMP laid five armed robbery charges last year, but only one in 2022

St. Albert saw more of certain gun crimes in 2023, especially armed robberies, which jumped to five incidents last year from one case in 2022.

RCMP provided a list of 26 selected firearms offences to the Gazette, with crimes ranging from manslaughter with a firearm to reckless use of a firearm. The list compared the number of firearms-related files in 2023 to 2022.

All told, St. Albert RCMP laid 13 firearm-related charges in 2023. That’s up from seven in 2022.

The number of times RCMP charged someone with pointing a firearm also jumped to five incidents in 2023 from two in 2022.  

“Each file is different, but often when a firearm is used in the commission of an offence, the individual(s) are also charged with pointing a firearm or careless use of a firearm, among other charges, depending on the circumstances,” said Cst. MJ Burroughs in an email.

Although RCMP responded to seven armed robbery incidents last year, one call was from Morinville and another was “unfounded,” Burroughs said, but she didn't provide more detail.

Of the five incidents that happened in St. Albert, only one is currently in court.

At least one case was dropped because of a lack of evidence, and another has been either paused or halted by prosecutors for reasons that RCMP did not share. One case is currently under investigation and RCMP would not comment, while a fifth case is under investigation with the Edmonton Police Service.

The reason St. Albert saw more armed robberies last year is “unknown,” Burroughs said.

“Police cannot predict variances in crime from year-to-year,” she said. “Different variables can cause variances thus [the increased gun crime last year] is not normal, but not abnormal either.”

But Doug King, a professor of criminal justice at Mount Royal University, has some theories.

While King was quick to point out researchers can’t accurately assess whether gun crime is a growing problem with only two years of data, he noted firearms offences are becoming more frequent in Canada and Alberta.

“The funny thing is, as they've been going up, virtually most other crime has been going down,” he said.

The worry is that the use of guns in criminal offences is linked to gang activity, he said.

And while many of the illegal firearms used in these crimes are coming from the U.S., “what’s really fascinating is that crime in the United States has gone down,” he said.

“Crime goes up and down, and it has everything to do with the number of individuals who get into communities that are prepared to engage in criminal activity, and that can be very transient. They can come and they can go,” he said.

But the “bottom line” for King, is that crime is “typically never as bad as people think it is.”

“Major communities in Canada are extraordinarily safe compared to the United States,” he said. “And the only difference between Canada the United States in terms of the crime rate is the violent crime rate. That can be easily traced to the availability of firearms in the United States.”

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