Everybody in Edmonton is armed?! I don't own any weapons, and chances are you don't either.

Bill Pitt has a history of making questionable or even factually incorrect statements about crime in Edmonton. He's good for a sensational quote but never any solutions. His record of irresponsible statements calls into question the judgement of local media organizations that continue to quote him. Even the crime symposium he organized in May 2011 seemed to focus on highlighting Edmonton's homicide rate rather than trying to do something about it, as he made it clear the focus was "not digging down to find the cause."

There's no question that crime is still a problem in Edmonton as it is in all large cities. And there's no question that any increase in homicides is cause for concern. But making irresponsible statements to simply stir the pot or make people unnecessarily afraid is not the way to address these issues. Bill Pitt and the media organizations that continue to cite him are doing more harm than good to Edmonton.

Demand a better discussion about crime in Edmonton!

For more information about this year's homicides in Edmonton, including the names of the victims, please click here.

Here's a selection of Pitt's questionable and irresponsible statements about crime in Edmonton that the local media have published:

"Organised crime is attracted to this economy like bees to honey. This is the calm before the storm."

- Bill Pitt quoted by Edmonton Sun, November 25, 2007

Edmonton recorded its highest homicide rate at 4.26 (per 100,000 population) in 2005, two years before Bill Pitt made this statement. It hasn't been close since, and was as low as 2.58 in 2009. Crime in general has been falling across the country for the last 20 years. According to EPS, there was an 18% reduction in crime in 2010 here in Edmonton (in eight crime indicators).

Furthermore, the reasons people get involved in gangs are varied - it is not just the economy. From the RCMP's newsletter: "Talk to actual or reformed street gang members, and theyíll give a wide variety of reasons for their involvement, including broken families, poverty, persistent discrimination, sibling or parental gang involvement, the sense of camaraderie and excitement of the gang, and a lack of positive role models and things to do."

More recently, a spokesman for EPS said "I spoke with a homicide Staff Sergeant who wasnít aware of a homicide case that could be linked to the booming economy..."

"You've got Iranian gangs, now gangs from the Middle East, Somalia. They're all organizing and cobbling together at the lower levels and that's really where this violence is really located, at the street level."

- Bill Pitt quoted by CTV Edmonton, September 22, 2008

While there has definitely been some gang activity in the Somalian community in Edmonton, that's not the only cause. Ahmed Hussen, national president of the Canadian Somali Congress, said "a substantial number of victims are not involved with gangs or anything."

"If anything, the Somalian community should apologize to the City of Edmonton for its lack of cooperation in all of these murders."

- Bill Pitt quoted by the Edmonton Sun, February 12, 2011

Members of the Somalian community have met with Edmonton police a number of times over the last three years, including a gathering in December 2008 and a large meeting in February 2009 that saw more than 200 people attend. There has been frustration, but there has also been an awful lot of cooperation.

"They should put a flag on City Hall saying this is the homicide capital of the country because we are."

- Bill Pitt quoted by the Calgary Herald, July 2, 2011

Edmonton has recorded more homicides so far in 2011 than any other Canadian city, but putting up a flag seems a little dramatic. Since 1981, Edmonton has led the country in homicides (rate per 100,000 population) 5 times, Montreal 4 times, Vancouver 6 times, and Winnipeg 13 times. There's no question that if you had to pick a capital, it would be Winnipeg.

"What you are really looking at is a black hole and it's a black hole of crime. This will be a place in the next 10 years that people will come back and study."

- Bill Pitt quoted by the Calgary Herald, July 2, 2011

I wonder if Pitt has any idea how black holes work. Maybe Pitt should lead by example and study the situation in Edmonton. As in the rest of Canada, crime is declining in Edmonton, and the homicide rate is actually trending downward (since 1981, see the graphs below).

"The leadership in this city on the issue of homicides is non-existent."

- Bill Pitt quoted by The Epoch Times, July 6, 2011

There's always room for improvement, but "non-existent"? In 2008, Mayor Mandel appointed a taskforce to seek answers on how to make Edmonton a safer community. The result of that was the REACH Report, released in September 2009, and ultimately REACH Edmonton. Those efforts received wide praise in 2009. In July 2011 Mayor Mandel met with Rod Knecht to discuss the growing homicide rate. One of the first things our new chief of police did was reassign 16 officers to the homicide section. In an interview with the Edmonton Journal, Knecht said that he believes engaging with the community is paramount. There are countless other initiatives that have shown leadership on this issue, including Racism Free Edmonton, a goal that more than 23,000 Edmontonians have pledged to support.

"Iím here to tell you itís not a safe city."

- Bill Pitt quoted by The Epoch Times, July 6, 2011

Nevermind that there was an 18% reduction in crime in 2010 here in Edmonton (in eight crime indicators, which translates into 5700 fewer crimes). Or that the majority of homicides last year were solved, with a clearance rate of 86%. Or that only five times since 1981 has Edmonton led the country in homicides (rate per 100,000 population). Or that in the first quarter of 2011 there has been a 30% reduction in crime in eight major categories.

"I wouldn't put a whole lot of stock in this stuff."

- Bill Pitt quoted by CBC, July 22, 2011

According to Statistics Canada, our country's crime rate is the lowest it has been in nearly 40 years. Violent crime dropped 5% in 2010 alone. The national rate of homicides in 2010 was 1.62 per 100,000 population, the lowest since 1966. What do you do when the statistics aren't going your way? If you're Bill Pitt, you call the reliability of the statistics into question.

"It's a culture of homicides in Edmonton here, they resolve problems in violent ways."

- Bill Pitt quoted by Canoe.ca, July 30, 2011

If we have a culture of homicides in Edmonton, what does Winnipeg have? Or the rest of the large municipalities in Canada, for that matter?

Pitt said historically, Edmonton has had nearly 100 more homicides than Calgary, and 80 more than Winnipeg in the last eight or nine years.

- Bill Pitt quoted by Canoe.ca, July 30, 2011

The absolute number of homicides is a misleading way to compare municipalities. It's the homicide rate (per 100,000 population) that is the accepted way to compare two places. Edmonton's average homicide rate since 1981 is lower than Winnipeg's and is only marginally higher than Vancouver's. In the last ten years, Edmonton's homicide rate has been lower than Winnipeg's eight times. Furthermore, Edmonton's highest ever recorded homicide rate is lower than the highest recorded in Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Calgary.

The majority of homicides in Edmonton have been "spontaneous drunken knife fights."

- Bill Pitt quoted by Canoe.ca, July 30, 2011

Given the large number of shootings, unreleased causes of death, or homicides awaiting autopsy results, it is premature at best to suggest that the majority are knife fights, let alone drunken ones. Oh, and are there planned drunken knife fights?

"The real leaders in the oil and gas industry are in high towers in Calgary - and people in there don't commit murder."

- Bill Pitt quoted by Canoe.ca, July 30, 2011

To suggest that blue collar workers in Edmonton are responsible for the homicides we have seen lately is irresponsible. Dean Parthenis, a spokesman for EPS said: "I spoke with a homicide Staff Sergeant who wasnít aware of a homicide case that could be linked to the booming economy or oil patch workers."

"Murders are committed by young males, unemployed or poorly educated who are drunk and carry a knife."

- Bill Pitt quoted by Canoe.ca, July 30, 2011

Pitt is describing the demographic that stands out in murder statistics around the world. This is not specific to Edmonton. Obviously there's more to homicide than these factors. For instance, Edmonton's unemployment rate in June 2011 was 5.4%, less than Calgary, Kelowna, Vancover, Victoria, Hamilton, Toronto, Halifax, and the same as Winnipeg.

"People are calling it an anomaly but it's been going on for a decade."

- Bill Pitt quoted by Canoe.ca, July 30, 2011

Edmonton Police Association President Tony Simioni said on August 2, 2011: "This is an aberration, this is not indicative of whatís to come." The statistics support him. Over the last ten years, Edmonton has experienced an average homicide rate of 2.9. In the ten years beginning in 1981, the average was 3.4. With the exception of 2005 and 2006, the homicide rate has not been above 3.5 since 1992. Rates were above 3.5 in 1992, 1989, 1988, 1987, 1983, and 1981.

"When you start mixing mental illness, homelessness, hopelessness, alcohol and drug abuse and tie it with a ribbon called armed to the teeth, youíre going to have problems."

- Bill Pitt quoted by Metro Edmonton, August 2, 2011

Armed to the teeth? Mixing, as if on purpose? Tie it with a ribbon?

"The cityís very nervous. Some of that nervousness is often generated by fear."

- Bill Pitt quoted by the Edmonton Sun, August 3, 2011

If we're all armed, how could we be nervous?

"The silence is deafening. There has to be some sort of reassurance, perhaps some calming words."

- Bill Pitt quoted by the Edmonton Sun, August 3, 2011

Pitt thinks that EPS Chief Rod Knecht isn't communicating enough with Edmontonians about this issue. As always, there's room for improvement, but here again Pitt is just wrong. On July 8 Chief Knecht said that EPS was "exploring what other communities are doing with respect to edged weapons." He also assured Edmontonians that "we're looking at a comprehensive strategy - not just one, single focus."

Furthermore, while Knecht has been doing his job gathering information and forming a plan, Mayor Mandel has not been shy about making statements and reassuring Edmontonians. He has been quoted countless times over the last few months. For example, on July 8 he said "we have challenges in Edmonton right now, I think we need to fix that, but Edmonton is a safe city." Other leaders have spoken up recently as well, such as Edmonton Police Association president Tony Simioni on July 2: "I don't think Edmonton is a dangerous place to live. The average citizen walking the streets in Edmonton is as safe as the average citizen walking the streets of Calgary."

"It's bile, it's vitriol, it's fecal and I think if it was paper I'd hang it appropriately in the outhouse, and use it appropriately! It's utter garbage!"

- Bill Pitt quoted by iNews880, August 4, 2011

That's what Pitt thinks of this website. Sharing information about crime in Edmonton is 'fecal'? Once again he proves that you can count on him for a sensational quote.

Oh, and Bill? Here you go.

"I'd like to set the record straight, I do like to 'rock the boat' a bit but I will not go with the status quo for the sake of it, and I believe the people of this city deserve a fair, honest and objective response (to crime), instead of the 'fuddle-duddle' they're being spoon fed with online."

- Bill Pitt quoted by iNews880, August 4, 2011

Well isn't that classy! There's no spoon feeding intended here. Click the links, read the resources for yourself. Consider checking out the Edmonton Police website as well, in particular the Community Policing section.

Let's look at some facts.

As you can see here, Edmonton's homicide rate is actually trending downward:

homicide rate trend in edmonton

Here is our homicide rate against other major Canadian municipalities:

homicide rates in cmas in canada

Edmonton is certainly not the murder capital of Canada if you take more than the current year into consideration:

The questions we should be asking...

are not being asked (with a few exceptions).

How is 2011 similar to 2005/2006?
Why has Montreal's homicide rate declined so steadily since 1981?
Why do Winnipeg and Edmonton have such similar homicide rates?
How is Edmonton demographically distinct from other cities?
Why did our homicide rate drop after 1992?
How has EPS changed in the last ten years?
And so on...

Instead we get Bill Pitt. And this:

Edmonton Sun: Deadmonton

Demand a better discussion about crime in Edmonton!

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