KAMLOOPS — With two shooting incidents in the span of five days last week in Kamloops, some are calling the safety of the city into question, although both were under different circumstances.
It started last Monday with a shooting on Nelson Avenue that wounded two men. It's a house the Kamloops RCMP have been watching for a couple of years. Then Friday, a man shot at police before barricading himself at the G&M Trailer Park.
"Certainly concerning," notes Kamloops RCMP Supt. Brad Mueller. "Any time you have people that are involved in a criminal element, drugs, mental health issues, and put on top of that firearms, shootings, our concern is public safety."
Last month, Konaam Shirzad was killed in broad daylight in Hudson's Bay Trail. The co-founder of the Red Scorpions gunned down.
With these incidents, public safety, some say, is under threat in Kamloops. Mueller says an increase in the drug trade in the city has led to more of these violent scenarios, especially with people who have easier access to guns.
"It's fueled by the drug and opioid crisis and the pressures dealing with that," says Mueller. "Here in Kamloops, we've done a good job of keeping organized crime groups out, but every time we do that, and we provide a significant disruption, take away cash, product, and make arrests, it creates a vacuum."
Mueller says another opportunity for another group of criminals to take advantage of a gap in that drug trade, and the cycle repeats itself.
"What we're seeing is that right across the province, Lower Mainland, is increasing levels of gun activity, and I think if you look across this province, across the country, internationally, those incidents of gun violence are becoming more and more prevelant," he notes.
For Kamloops mayor Ken Christian, it's particularly concerning to watch as leader of the city. But he is steadfast in saying Kamloops remains a safe community.
"Any time there's any gun violence in your city, it's hurtful and it's not acceptable in Kamloops nor anywhere," he says. "But I think we have to put in context. Kamloops has had a total of two murders this year, and to make comparisons with us and Surrey or us and Abbotsford is a bit of a stretch."
But in the same token, Christian knows Kamloops is not immune.
"The war on drugs is alive in Kamloops. We are actively in pursuit of those that would ply the drug trade," said Christian. "But the opioid crisis, in and of itself, is a crisis not unique to Kamloops, certainly not even unique to British Columbia. It requires a coordinated law enforcement presence. We are going to be working with other partners to make sure we interrupt the drug trade as much as possible."
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