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Knives shouldn't be for sale in convenience stores, community group and police argue

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Edmonton city councillors have agreed to explore ways to stop convenience and corner stores from selling legal knives.

Community members and Edmonton Police Service asked the urban planning committee on Tuesday to take action on what they consider to be an issue of public safety.

The community lobbyists brought pictures of knives they had purchased at local shops to illustrate the weapons' danger. Many featured indentations for easier gripping, were sharpened on two sides, or contained a quick-opening mechanism.

"These are much more lethal than your average knife that you would find in a set of cutlery," said Allan Bolstad, a board member of the Alberta Avenue Community League and former city councillor.

The group pitched creating a separate category to identify and limit the sale of these kinds of knives without a licence, criticizing how easily accessible they currently are to youth and pointing to a rise in violent crime.

Christy Morin, executive director of Arts on the Ave, told CTV News Edmonton she knew of a 13-year-old who was sold a knife by a store employee who did not question when he told them he was 21 years old.

She said concerned residents have tried to talk to shop owners about their concern.

"The responses from the shopkeepers are honestly, 'I can sell this. Why are you asking me?'

"So there's just not this conscience or moral compass."

Management at three stores selling knives declined to comment on the matter, although two did permit CTV News Edmonton to take pictures and video.

Erick Estrada, the executive director of the Alberta Avenue Business Association, said some stores have removed knives from their shelves because of the backlash.

"I think it speaks to the huge volume of community-oriented business we have in the area … They're a part of the community and they care about everyone in here."

According to the EPS representative who spoke at city hall on Tuesday, the police service counted a total of 236 knife incidents in 2022 and 255 in 2023, an increase of 7.5 per cent.

However, staff sergeant Michael Keef did not have data on frequently knives bought at corner stores were involved in investigations.

"There's definitely a gap in what's being sold versus what's actually restricted in the Criminal Code, and that's what we're trying to close that down so we can make it a little bit easier to reduce the convenience of being able to buy these on the street," Keef said.

"I think it's important to limit the availability of weapons into the community and just make it a little bit more difficult for people to obtain them than just walking in while they're buying their chips and pop."

Councillors were receptive to the request. Ward Métis Coun. Ashley Salvador noted the public's concern has been known for at least 20 years. Mayor Amarjeet Sohi suggested there's a conversation to be had at the federal level to close the gap Keef spoke about, but also gave his support to exploring what tools the city had at its disposal.

Administration will report later in the year what options Edmonton's council has.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's David Ewasuk and Sean Amato 

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