The Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) is taking drastic action to combat rising gun crime in the region with the help of additional funding from the Ontario government. The initiative is driven by concerns related to the 21 shooting-related incidents that occurred in Waterloo in 2019— five of which were homicides.
“We’ve got a rising violent crime rate,” WRPS Chief Bryan Larkin said. “We’ve recently redeployed operational resources in our organization to provide support to our major crime team.”
On Saturday at 7:00 p.m., officers marched into the Marianne Dorn Trail in the Strasburg area of Kitchener to lead a police investigation on the first homicide of the year. A 48-year-old man was pronounced dead on arrival of the scene while a 77-year-old man was taken into custody.
Police say the two men knew each other but did not provide details on their relationship or any other matter concerning the incident.
In April of last year, Helen Schaller, 58, was killed after she was shot multiple times in the area of King Street East and Church Street in Cambridge.
In August of last year, Kyle Parthe was also fatally shot in a Cambridge plaza after a dispute between two groups of men.
WRPS acknowledged the alarming increase in violent crimes.
“Organized crime and those that commit crime, they do not respect jurisdictions, they have tentacles in all communities,” Chief Larkin, said in July of last year.
WRPS also remarked that many of the people charged with drug trafficking and violent crime are not from the Waterloo region — instead, the area is seeing an overflow of crime traced back to other parts of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
“Often, our investigations find the tentacles of crime go back to the GTA,” Const. Ashley Dietrich, public relations officer with the police service said.
“Because individuals involved in criminal activity do not necessarily respect geographical boundaries, we are seeing an increase in violent and non-violent crime in Waterloo region.”
WRPS is still concerned with the level of occupancy they have in dealing with immediate crimes. There is limited time and resources available to solve the problem at its source.
Patrick Watson, an assistant professor in criminology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Brantford, said growing income inequality and high property prices in the region could be a driving force behind more violent gun crime.
“The income inequality in Waterloo Region is pretty dramatic at this point, especially with the sort of market forces that are being driven on property prices by the tech sector,” Watson said.
Regional police will be receiving $8.5 million in funding from a new grant program administered by the Government of Ontario to provide Waterloo with a fighting chance against the spike in gun crime. The grant will be directed towards investigating local issues, human trafficking and gang violence.
WRPS has received approximately $1.5 million for provincial priorities, with $7 million dedicated towards local ones.