Experts are alarmed at the young ages of the suspects believed to be involved in a fatal northeast Calgary shooting earlier this week.
According to a Tuesday news release, officers responded to reports of a shooting in the parking lot of the Trans Canada Centre in Marlborough at around 2 p.m.
When officers arrived, they found the body of a man, as well as a man and a woman suffering from gunshot wounds. The two surviving victims were taken to hospital and police said they are in stable condition.
Two brothers, aged 14 and 18, were taken into custody and charged in connection with the shooting.
Police said a 14-year-old boy, who cannot be identified due to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was charged with one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. He is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday, Nov. 16.
An 18-year-old boy was also charged with one count of accessory to murder after the fact but cannot be identified because of his relation to the 14-year-old boy. He is also scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday, Nov. 16.
“It’s no surprise that over the last few years, guns have replaced knives as the weapon of choice in most homicides. It’s an alarming trend to see the number of shootings we’ve been having,” said retired homicide detective Dave Sweet.
“These are not guns that are being used by lawful gun owners. They’re guns that are used by criminal groups that are recycled. If they’re not recovered, they’re recycled through these groups and they can end up across the country.”
Sweet said while anyone can be involved in organized crime, 14 is a very young age. He told Global News there is a deeper social problem Calgary police may not be aware of.
“There’s some sort of breakdown somewhere that is occurring that we’re not really completely aware of,” he said.
“It’s difficult to know what lures somebody into this … I don’t think consequences and reality set in until they’re actually arrested and charged.
“I don’t know what leads a 14-year-old and an 18-year-old to follow the same path. I can imagine there’s probably a lot of complexity within that relationship and one may look up to the other.”
Many community organizations have programs to prevent youth from getting involved in organized crime.
Anila Lee-Yuen, president and CEO at the Centre for Newcomers, has been working as a youth counsellor for 25 years. She’s worked with gang-involved youth and youth who were involved in violent crimes and questions the circumstances that caused the brothers to turn to organized crime.
“What were the circumstances? What were the systemic issues? What were the specific issues that have led these two young people going down this path?” she said.
“I’ve seen firsthand youth being lured into criminal activity and it is really related to their circumstances. There’s almost always trauma in their family and in their personal lives. There’s almost always poverty. There’s always a sense of hopelessness, isolation and not having anyone to really support you.”
Lee-Yuen added youth from newcomer families especially feel pressured to become the breadwinner and take care of their family members. Many of these youth sell drugs and other criminal activity to bring money home.
“They hear the stories of that random group or that random person who was very successful doing it, who was able to pay for all of his siblings’ education and bought a car and a house for his mom, all of those things,” she said.
“I’ve gone to too many funerals, that’s the heartbreaking part about this. The victims, the innocent bystanders and the youth themselves … The number of 14-year-olds and 15-year-olds that I’ve seen buried, nobody should have to witness.
“Often the parents are also equally shocked, equally surprised and devastated by everything that’s happening with their children.”
Lee-Yuen said the Centre of Newcomers has a program for youth at risk of becoming involved in criminal activity.
The REAL ME Intervention Program works with newcomer youth and helps them set and achieve their goals. The youth will be introduced to a support team, which may involve family members, religious leaders and service providers like addiction counsellors. These youth are then given a plan to help reach their potential, which could involve school and job supports, leadership and conflict resolution training.
Currently, there are 40 youth participating in the program with another 40 on the waitlist. A minimum funding of $500,000 is needed to keep the program running, according to Lee-Yuen.
“We have a very large waitlist. We just don’t have enough resources,” she said.
“These two youth have been on our waitlist for six months and we haven’t been able to get them in. You start think if they have been able to come in, maybe we could have been able to get them interventions and maybe nobody would have died.”
Lee-Yuen said community support is very important for the program to succeed.
“Every child just needs one adult in their lives to say they care about them. That they will support them no matter what. That can change the entire trajectory of their lives,” she said.
Rod MacNeil, acting sergeant of youth services at the Calgary Police Service, said he was shocked when he heard of the suspects’ ages. He said he’s never seen that young involved in such a violent crime.
MacNeil said the CPS partnered with the Calgary Police Youth Foundation, the City of Calgary and Alberta Health Services to create early intervention programs for youth. This includes the Multi-Agency School Support Team (MASST), where police go to schools because school staff saw signs of criminal activity or youth at risk with being involved in crime.
MacNeil said officers are paired with social workers and work with the youth and their families to try to find out why they may be at risk. On average, MacNeil said the team will work with the student for a year to a year and a half before the youth graduates from the program.
The CPS also has the Youth At Risk Development (YARD) program targeted at youth aged 10 to 17. MacNeil said these youth will be referred to the program by their school or anyone in the community and will be provided with wraparound support.
“Sometimes for the youth, it’s the only way of life they know,” MacNeil said. “We’ve seen many of these stories where these youth are headed down the wrong path and if we can get involved at an early age, we can put them on the right path.”
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