With 2014 recording its first murder last week, traffic fatalities actually tripled homicides in Abbotsford in 2013, with six people dying in traffic-related incidents, while only two were victims of murder – down from a record high of 11 in 2009.
In February, 40-year-old Leanne Friesen died of gunshot wounds. Her estranged husband has been charged with her murder, and is out on bail while awaiting trial.
In June, 25-year-old Harpreet Chahal died in a drive-by shooting on South Fraser Way. Chahal was a known associate of Jujhar Khun-Khun, who has been charged with the killing of Jonathan Bacon, a Red Scorpion gang member who used to live in Abbotsford.
But in 2013, Abbotsford police count six traffic-related deaths, including two pedestrians killed by vehicles, three deaths in motor vehicle accidents, and one cyclist killed after losing control of the bike. Counted among the pedestrian deaths is Shaminder Brar, who was the apparent victim of a hit-and-run in February, though police do not have definitive answers in the case.
Const. Ian MacDonald said that traditionally, traffic-related deaths are always higher than murders, except for in 2009, when there were six traffic deaths and 11 murders in Abbotsford.
MacDonald said that following the city’s spike in murder deaths in 2009 – eight of which were gang-related – police placed a concerted effort on gang suppression.
The murder rate dropped to four in 2010. There were no murders in 2011 and three in 2012.
MacDonald said that controlling homicide rates is “not a perfect science, especially when you are dealing with some variables that are difficult to crack.”
He said a certain percentage of homicides will be related to domestic situations, or private disputes among people who know each other.
“There are certain conflicts that regrettably will become violent.”
He said from a policing perspective, they must focus on reducing public safety risks, which includes making Abbotsford a difficult place to be a gangster. But MacDonald added that drug dealers and gangsters go where the money is, and do not take note of different jurisdictions.
“You can never rest easy with anything that’s going on. As long as there are gangs, and conflict over money and drugs and other commodities … you always have to be on guard and you always have to be vigilant.”
While Abbotsford’s murder rate is much lower than its peak, Surrey surpassed its record of 22 in November. At year’s end, the city had 25 murder victims.
In response to the homicide rates, Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts struck a special task force to examine drug houses and the impact of mental illness on crime and violence rates, and correspondingly, police resources.
MacDonald said that when a city experiences high homicide rates, it is not a time for blame, but for increased community engagement in public safety.
He said from the APD’s experience, it is important to get the community in support of the police to help combat high murder rates.
In order to keep murder rates low in 2014, APD plans to “stay the course,” and remain vigilant in gang suppression efforts.
But as in 2013, APD plans to focus on road safety this year, with continued efforts to educate and address the root causes of traffic-related incidents.