The ebb and flow in the traditional rising tide of Edmonton homicides has calmed for a period not seen in years, leaving crime experts with the conclusion that violent criminals are being washed to other areas.

Edmonton has not seen a homicide in 52 days, a rarity in a city that plays host to murder every 10 days or so.

“It’s a nice period, not to pick up the paper and see dead people,” said Grant MacEwan College criminologist Bill Pitt.

Though gang violence and murders are decreasing on Edmonton streets, rates are rising in rural communities. There were 53 rural homicides investigated in 2008, more than double the 23 slayings of 2007.

“They’re getting out of town,” Pitt said. “They’re under the gun here. The leaders are being targeted, and they like to operate in the dark, metaphorically.”

Pitt credits the work of law enforcement agencies, who have taken proactive steps to quell gang violence.

Somali leaders met with police officials last fall, in hopes to save more young men from falling victim to deadly violence. Four Somali men were murdered in 2008, three of whom were suspects, or charged in other murders.

“There’s much stronger surveillance to groups inside the city and they’re feeling uncomfortable,” Pitt said. “Once they separate, we don’t see it in town, but we’re seeing it in places like Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie and Peace River.”

The last, long stretch where streets were homicide-free was in 2006, when 88 days passed between the March 2 murder of Stefan Conley and the May 29 murder of Jerry Nguyen.

The last person to be murdered in city limits was 21-year-old Brendan McNaughton, who was stabbed behind a west-end pub Feb. 21.

“These things are episodic — you’ll get clusters of them,” Pitt said. “… Time will tell if it’s an anomaly.”

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