With the recent violence this past week, I would like to address a few questions that we are asked often when people and communities are dealing with tragedy: What is happening, why is it happening and what are you doing about it? These are critical questions, and as much as I wish they were, the answers are not simple.
We’ve had three tragic incidents since Saturday, with two men losing their lives. Family and friends of the victims are grieving, and entire neighbourhoods and communities are hurting as well. We recognize their pain because we see it. We continue to extend condolences to family and friends of the victims.
Just like the citizens of our community, we too are concerned about these latest incidents. I can assure you that our officers and civilian staff are working long hours to determine exactly what happened and validate the evidence that allows us to charge those responsible. We also have a team of people dedicated to intelligence gathering, which includes our community officers who are continually interacting with communities. Thanks to these efforts and the support of the community, we laid charges in the homicide of Shakur Jefferies that occurred on November 12.
We know and appreciate that emotions are running high. We’re reaching out to citizens, family members, friends and community groups who may have influence, with the hope of diffusing recent hostilities and preventing further incidents. We’re often made aware of individuals and groups who are resorting to violence, but in many cases, we need people in our community to come forward with information to help us stop the violence. This is a community issue and we often can’t solve these crimes and other crimes of violence without community cooperation. A trusting relationship between police and communities is critical for community safety, and in some communities despite our best efforts we have more work to do to build that trust. This is, in part, contributing to people’s reluctance and fear to come forward.
With the issue of trust in mind and recognizing that in traumatic situations, seconds can feel like minutes, and minutes like hours, it’s important to correct some misinformation in the media and community about the emergency response on Monday night to the victim, Terrence Izzard. Here is what we have determined through the call logs: We received a 911 call regarding shots fired at 11:07 p.m. and our beat officers, who were in the Gottingen Street area, responded within two minutes (11:09 p.m.). Thanks to their quick response and immediate dispatching of EHS, an ambulance arrived at about 11:15 p.m. Paramedics began providing care immediately, taking over from officers who up to that point had been providing emergency trauma first aid themselves. Paramedics left the scene to transport Mr. Izzard to the QEII just before 11:30 p.m.
This week’s homicides are the most recent of eleven this year. The majority of these incidents are not random; the assailants are known to the victims. In the case of homicides, most stem from domestic violence, drugs and alcohol abuse, or people resorting to violence with firearms to address personal conflicts. As you can well appreciate, no two homicides are alike and there are many contributing factors that would lead to a person taking the life of another.
This type of severe violence is a complex issue that requires sustained attention and a multifaceted approach, not only by us, but also by community and political leaders, community groups and, ultimately, individuals. Addressing root causes that can be as basic as health, education, housing and economic opportunities, along with policing efforts, give us the best opportunity to reduce and stop the violence while maintaining safe communities. This means we all have a role to play.
As I have been doing this past week, I’m asking again for anyone with information about this week’s incidents or any prior incidents to please connect with one of our officers or, if you want to remain anonymous, CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477. I’m also calling on citizens to get involved with programs and services that contribute to strengthening our communities.
Chief Jean-Michel Blais
Halifax Regional Police