6 deaths, 4 months: Central Edmonton violence sparks concern for vulnerable people Pipa News

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6 deaths, 4 months: Central Edmonton violence sparks concern for vulnerable people

Standing in the shadows of Rogers Place on the edge of downtown, Mary-Jo explains her strategy for surviving life on the streets of Edmonton.

“You have to learn how to adapt. And you know what you have to focus on? Me, me and me,” she said.

Mary-Jo, who uses a walker to get around, said she arrived in Edmonton in 2015 and eventually found herself on the streets when she had no place to stay.

She said that even if a person can make it through the bone-chilling cold snaps and navigate shelters and support services, there is no guarantee of safety.

He said people – especially women – should travel in groups after 8 pm

A woman wearing a winter coat is speaking into a microphone.
Mary-Jo describes some of the dangers she deals with as a person experiencing homelessness in Edmonton. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Mary-Jo said that there has been an increase in the presence of gangs and violence recently, and that she was once robbed after picking up a pension check at the bank.

“I come out there – two women pushed me from behind. They took my money, my backpack,” she said. “I learned … you have to see what’s behind you and what’s in front of you.”

Mary-Jo, who declined to share her last name with the CBC, said she has secured a position at a treatment center that will get her off the streets.

For years, many neighborhoods around the city of Edmonton have struggled with public perceptions of being hotspots of crime and disorder, even though thousands of people live and work safely in the area.

A woman is walking down the street pushing a walker.
Edmonton resident Mary-Jo walks down the street near Boyle Street Community Services. As a homeless person, she said she had to learn to live with the violence. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

But police say they are alarmed by what has been happening over the past three years, and social agencies have warned that some of the city’s most vulnerable citizens are at risk.

weak target

Between September 8, 2022, and January 2, 2023, Edmonton police reported six deaths in neighborhoods directly north of downtown – four deemed homicides and two deemed suspicious.

Investigators have linked the two deaths to violence in the camps. A youth died after being shot outside the shelter home.

While few details are known about the six people who died, the locations and circumstances suggest that at least some of them were living in poverty before their deaths.

A woman in a red and black sweater is standing outside.
Lena Meadows is the Boyle Street Community Center’s Senior Manager of Adult Programming. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

“I think it’s a huge misconception that people who are homeless are violent, when in fact it’s our people who are experiencing homelessness,” said Lena Meadows, senior manager of adult programming at Boyle Street Community Services. , against whom violence has taken place.”

Meadows said there has been an increase in violence targeting Boyle Street clients who are often outside, alone and vulnerable. She especially worries about what happens to them overnight when social agencies and businesses are closed and there is nowhere to take shelter.

Meadows said that although Edmonton police have been good in terms of responding and offering support, not everyone feels comfortable talking to investigators or even Boyle Street staff.

“Our community needs housing. Our community needs access to resources and overnight shelters and proper services,” she said.

‘human-centered’

The inspector said connecting people to housing and other support services is also important to Edmonton Police’s strategy to respond to the increase in social disorder and crime in central neighbourhoods. Angela Kemp, who heads the Crime Suppression Branch.

Kemp said people living in camps or spending time on the streets could end up as victims of “predatory violence” and noted that there has been an increase in stranger-on-stranger attacks.

A police officer is standing near a street.
EPS Inspection. Angela Kemp says police are working with partner agencies to address social disorder and crime in the city’s core. (Trevor Wilson / CBC)

While there are cases where people need to be held accountable for violence through prosecution, Kemp said her team, along with social agencies and health care workers she has partnered with, try to remove those doing those who need support away from the criminal justice system.

“It’s not an enforcement-based approach. It’s really a human-centered approach where we’re actually looking at these individuals, connecting them to resources,” she said.

inherent stigma

Marta-Marika Arbnik, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Alberta, said research into the ways homeless people become victims of crime and violence is still limited.

Urbanick said, “Homeless people are less likely to report their victims to the police due to fear of not being believed, not interacting with the police, feeling that the police will do nothing, and general stigma and rhetoric against them.” Chances are.”

Urbanik said there are many possible factors that could expose a homeless person to greater risk, such as living out in the open in parts of the city with no shelter where violence is concentrated, or low levels of drug use. Being involved in business or sex work and ultimately being victimized by individuals who are armed – including guns.

Marta-Marika Urbanik, assistant professor at the University of Alberta’s Center for Criminological Research, says Edmontonians need to consider how they want to spend their tax dollars, adding that crime prevention is about more than increased policing. Is cheap. (Samuel Martin / CBC)

The stigma of homelessness can also encourage criminals, he said.

“They recognize that victims who are marginalized, who are on the streets, generally will not elicit the same police or even societal response and the fury that this can inflict on someone who is considered a victim of our society.” considered more valuable for,” she said.

As a solution, Urbanik called on both Meadows and Kemp to increase support and housing – adding that their own research with homeless people in Canada has shown that there needs to be options beyond traditional shelter locations that are accessible to all. do not work for

“Individuals are not going to places where they traditionally access critical services because they are afraid of violence that they believe is increasing in those areas. So it is a real access barrier that we need to address. Have to navigate,” she said.

Between September 8 and January 2, six people were killed in neighborhoods north of downtown Edmonton. No charges have been filed. Some of the deaths have been declared homicides. Others are still considered suspects.

  • September 8: Yakub Osman Saibu, 40, was found shot inside a home at 106th Avenue and 105th Street. He died at the scene. His death was declared a homicide.

  • November 29: Joseph Ross Gladew, 38, was found dead in a camp near the footpath and LRT tracks near 95th Street and 106th Avenue. In January, police said the death was still classified as suspicious. How the death happened has not been disclosed.

  • November 28: Calvin Ross Musewah, 46, was found unresponsive outside the Coliseum LRT station. He died two days later in the hospital. Police said Moosewah was the victim of an attack on November 19 at a camp in the area of ​​100th Street and 105th Avenue and was taken to the hospital that day with a head injury. A 40-year-old man has been charged in the November 19, 2022 attack. As of 20 January, Moosawah’s death was still being treated as suspicious.

  • December 18: Ahmed Mohamed, 36, was shot dead in the parking lot of a convenience store at 104th Street and 107th Avenue. Police found him in response to a weapons complaint in a room in a building near 103rd Street and 106th Avenue, where a 23-year-old man was found with serious injuries. The youth was taken to the hospital. Mohammed’s death was declared a homicide.

  • Investigators believe that Ronald Bell, 70, was murdered on the afternoon of 27 December. On January 1, police were called to a sudden death at Bell’s rented house at 107th Avenue and 106th Street. Investigators told reporters that there were several other tenants and many visitors to the home, and that they expected to speak to anyone who was there at the time of Bell’s death. The manner of death has not been released for investigative reasons, but it has been declared a homicide.

  • On January 2, Shane Bakewell, 32, was found in medical distress outside a shelter near 100th Street and 105A Avenue. Hospital personnel informed the police after seeing continuous injuries with bullet wounds. Bakewell’s death has been declared a homicide.

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