Seven murders in Prince George in 2010 have once again given the city the dubious honour of being listed the most dangerous city in Canada on Macleans annual list, however the statistics don’t tell the whole story according to RCMP Supt. Eric Stubbs.
The RCMP along with Mayor Shari Green and representatives of city council hosted a press conference the day before the story was published in a proactive effort to assure citizens the city is safe and share the fact there have been no murders in 2011, which according to Stubbs is no fluke but rather the result of several initiatives targeting drugs and gang activity.
Macleans, whose survey rates the 100 largest cities in Canada, bases its rankings on the crime security index. At the conference Insp. Keith Redl explained that, with this model, each crime is assigned a value, or weight, based on sentencing. Murder is given a very high weight.
Of the 2010 murders, two are alleged to have been committed by Cody Alan Legebokoff, who is facing trial for those murders and another, committed in 2009. When he was arrested, Legebokoff was in prison awaiting trial on a fourth murder charge.
Of the other murders, two occurred at a grow-op outside of city limits and were drug related. The rest have been resolved or are in the process of going through the court system. In two cases, no charges are pending. These murders are still under investigation.
This year, however, there have been no homicides, and with just a few weeks left in the year there is a chance next year Prince George may make Macleans list of cities where no murders were committed. This year, 38 Canadian cities are on that list.
Stubbs said there has been a decrease in other crimes in the city as well in 2011.
One initiative that is helping targets high profile gang members.
“Every week I see our members taking firearms off the street,” he said.
The Downtown Enforcement Unit decreased crime in the bowl area by 24 per cent. The Crime Reduction team and the Youth At Risk team have also made significant progress, he added. Another aid is the provincially-funded 16 member combined forces unit in Prince George which combats gang issues. Though the unit covers all of northern B.C., a lot of its efforts to control gang activity is expended within the city, which even for organized crime is the hub of the North.
Of the 15 prolific offenders the RCMP have been focusing on, nine are in custody and six are on judicial conditions. Weekly, he said, RCMP members are executing search warrants that help get drugs off the street and send gang members to jail.
“We are focusing our efforts on high level dealers in the community. If you look at the numbers I believe we are on the right track. We are focusing our resources on offenders who cause the most concern.”
The label of Most Dangerous City in Canada is not one that Stubbs enjoys.
“I don’t like that label for this community,” he said.
He said he dislikes it first because he’s the chief of police within the city, second because he lives here and he wouldn’t have moved his family to Prince George if he didn’t believe it was safe and third because he doesn’t believe it’s true.
The label will also make promoting Prince George more challenging, but Green said the key is to get the true message of the nature of the city out to the public.
And the statistics for 2011 prove inroads have been made on crime.
“As a result of these efforts we’ve seen some dramatic improvements in 2011,” Green said. “City council and the City of Prince George fully support the RCMP in their targeted efforts.”
Green said she and the rest of council have heard loud and clear from the citizens of Prince George that people want to feel safe.
“We will continue to take a coordinated approach and support youth education,” she said, adding she is working on creating a gang tip line for youth.
The new year, she said, will build on the success of 2011.