Police need to stop saying the public is safe when it comes to 'targeted shootings'

Chris Campbell

When the Burnaby RCMP supplied information to the media about Saturday night’s shooting in a quiet local neighbourhood, they said a thing that I’m getting tired of hearing from police.

The police basically said that Saturday’s shooting – in which multiple rounds were fired at a car and a man was seriously injured - was “targeted” and that the general public is not at risk.

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The “targeted” means it’s not some random assailant trying to kill somebody they don’t know. Sometimes (often?), the term refers to gang-related crime.

The whole bit about the general public not being at risk is common with city and RCMP law-enforcement agencies, especially during press conferences.

They are saying that because these criminals (sometimes gang members) are trying to kill specific people, then somehow the general public is not at risk because random people are not being targeted.

Well, just ask the family of Alfred Wong if they agree.

Wong was 15 years old when he died after being hit a stray bullet during a gun battle on the streets of Vancouver in January 2018.

This was a targeted shooting. It was on a public street. Somebody innocent died.

This was similar to Saturday night’s shooting. A man was seriously injured after he was shot while in his car. A pedestrian could have been hit if they were walking by the car.

Wong was the most recent innocent bystander killed by gang violence.

In September 2015, a 74-year-old man was shot and killed in Abbotsford in what police at the time called a “targeted shooting.”

Go back even further to 2007, when two innocent bystanders were killed in a “targeted shooting” also known as the Surrey Six murders. In that case, two people, Chris Mohan and Ed Schellenberg, were viewed as witnesses to a hit.

Wrong place, wrong time.

Look, I get what the police are trying to say because in these cases there isn’t some killer out gunning for random people.

But as we’ve seen with gang violence, one shooting leads to a lot more shootings as the violence escalates. A lot of these shootings happen out in the open and, sorry police, but the general public is at risk the more these shootings happen.

Add to this the fact that often the suspect or suspects are still at large and you've got a situation that is potentially dangerous for the general public.

It feels like police toss out the “general public” reassurance because gang violence puts a lot of pressure on police agencies to stop it. It feels like a quick way to take the pressure off them.

It feels political.

You might find that term unfair, but politics is always connected to the issue of crime.

Police like to show the public that they’re doing something about crime. It’s why they are always willing to show the media the spoils of a big bust – drugs, cash and weapons on a table.

And I get that.

Gang violence puts a lot of pressure on police agencies because, at least in Metro Vancouver, there is so much of it. Last year, a group of people rallied outside of Surrey city hall demanding answers about what the police were doing about the gang violence in their community.

Oh, and it just happened to be held a few months before a municipal election in which the winning candidate for mayor, Doug McCallum, was running on a law-and-order platform.

Like I said, I get that there is a lot of pressure on police when there is a gang shooting.

I just think that telling people the general public is not at risk is a bit disingenuous.

Follow Chris Campbell @shinebox44





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