IN RECENT WEEKS, there has been a rash of brazen killings in the Lower Mainland. Again and again, people are being gunned down and killed, often in very public places, in broad daylight.
The latest was Sunday, May 9 at 3 p.m. at the international departures terminal of the Vancouver International Airport. It was latest of 10 shootings in Greater Vancouver and region in recent weeks.
The day before, on Saturday, May 8 at 7 p.m., another gang-linked related killing happened in Burnaby at a small store. As well as the intended victim, an innocent victim was wounded with non-life-threatening injuries in the attack.
Many of the shootings have been directly linked to gang-related activities.
People have been gunned down and killed in parks, at rec centres, at private residences, and in shopping mall parking lots.
All too often, when the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) issues a press release for one of these killings there are words like “targeted killing”, or “individual targeted for killing.”
Again and again, in the IHIT press releases, it is emphasized that the killings are gang linked and that the victims specifically targeted. Some of the victims have links to gang activities while others have no known links.
That the victims are “targeted” is cold comfort.
Reading through the press releases of the IHIT, there is an absence of words like “danger to public”, “concerns for public safety” or “loss of public’s sense of safety.”
Innocent people are getting caught in the crossfire. It’s a miracle that more innocent people haven’t been wounded or killed in the crossfire.
With people being shot and killed in both public places and private residences, a sense of safety is being destroyed. How can anyone guard against gunmen who open fire in parking lots of shopping malls, at skateboard parks, or at fitness centre parking lots?
And as the gang killings continue, with tit-for-tat retaliations, the IHIT use of words like “isolated incident” are hollow. Ten shootings are beyond isolated.
Putting aside the direct victims, all of their families must be traumatized by the shootings and killings. These are generally young people, whose families must have had hopes and dreams for them. All of the victims and shooters have neighbors, places of business, and favorite restaurants. As the violence escalates, these must wonder if their homes, work places, and businesses are safe too.
Using words like “targeted” to describe the recent killings makes it seem that there is little danger or consequences to the general public.
As the gun violence escalates, the consequences ripple wider and wider. Every victim has family and friends mourning their death. Every business is looking at ways to keep staff and customers safer. Neighborhood after neighborhood becomes the next place for a gun-related death. Every act of violence spawns further retaliations.
The IHIT calling the recent gun related killings “targeted” doesn’t take away the widespread impact on our sense of safety. Even here in Kamloops, or Kelowna, or other Interior cities, we know that as gang-related killings escalate, they eventually spill out to our cities too. We’ve seen it before, and we’ll see the violence here again.
Call the killings “targeted”, but acknowledge the widespread trauma, erosion of safety, collateral damage and sometimes innocent lives lost as well. We’re all bracing for the next brutal act.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.