Record number of homicides, overdoses mark a difficult 2021 for police in Regina

·3 min read
Evan Bray, Regina's police chief, said there have been a record number of homicides and overdoses this year.  (Matthew Howard/CBC - image credit)
Evan Bray, Regina's police chief, said there have been a record number of homicides and overdoses this year. (Matthew Howard/CBC - image credit)

Regina's had a record number of homicides and overdoses this year, and Evan Bray, the police chief, said the community needs to pull together to combat problems.

The capital recorded 14 homicides as of Dec. 28, that's the highest number in more than 40 years, according to data collected by Statistics Canada. And there have been at least 118 apparent deaths from overdoses, surpassing 111 in 2020.

"Let's take the stats out of it for a second and recognize each one of these is a serious traumatic incident that is tearing apart family and community and really causes lots of conflict and problems," Bray said.

The deaths don't just harm a community, but also put a strain on responders and organizations such as the EMS and the Regina Fire and Protective Services.

Bray said he wants the residents of Regina to pull together and help those who are vulnerable in the community.

Homicides

CBC News mapped out the locations of the homicides and found that nine of the 14, or 64 per cent, occurred in the city's North Central neighbourhood.

Bray wasn't surprised.

"Sadly, we know that the North Central Community, although it's a vibrant community that's full of culture and all kinds of incredible things that go on there, it is also at a higher likelihood to have violent crime happen," he said.

Bray said many of the factors that function as a root cause of crime are present in North Central Regina including poverty, food insecurity, substance abuse, racism and domestic violence.

There are many ongoing efforts to tackle those challenges, Bray said, noting that although police may be the first to respond to the site of a crime, they're not the best equipped to tackle social issues.

"I think that we recognize that often times there are other community partners, other agencies that are better equipped to help people with what their challenges are," he said.

Bray pointed to the city's recently passed community safety and well-being plan, as a way forward in the years to come.

The idea for the plan dates back to 2019, when council linked the municipality's level of crime and violence to a variety of underlying social issues. The plan aims to bring together a variety of community organizations in an attempt to address issues such as poverty and other roots of crime.

A non-profit organization will be set up to implement the community safety and well-being plan. And Bray will serve on the mayor's leadership committee that will help advise the group.

Bray's looking forward to bringing the police perspective to the committee, and said it's important community work.

Overdoses also a concern

The plan will also look at issues related to overdoses.

As of Oct. 31, the city had recorded 118 apparent deaths from overdoses.

Data from November and December have yet to be released, but the figure already surpasses the 111 apparent overdose deaths recorded in 2020.

"These record numbers of categories are not categories that we want to be setting records in," Bray said.

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