Stopping the flow of illegal guns would be one way to make a big dent in homicide rates, police say.

According to a report from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, there were 572 homicides in Canada in 2015.

Stabbing was the main cause of death in nearly 37 per cent of those homicides, the report says, while shooting was to blame for slightly more than 30 per cent.

Those figures suggest guns are being used as weapons of homicide more often than they have been in the past.

“What’s concerning is the increase,” Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin said Wednesday.

“The proliferation of handguns in particular – not long-guns, but handguns – is a concern.”

Larkin sees two main areas to focus on to reduce the region’s homicide rate – continuing to work on curbing domestic violence, and doing more to crack down on the weapons trade.

“I think we need a concerted effort not only in our region, but across the province, to do business differently and to tackle those that are importing, those that are trafficking in illegal firearms,” he said.

Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council executive director Christiane Sadeler says investigating and prosecuting a homicide case can cost as much as $6 million.

She says she’d rather see that money put toward efforts that shift attitudes in an effort to stop crime from happening in the first place.

“For anybody to pick up a gun, they have to have the desire to pick up a gun. There has to be a culture that tolerates a certain level of violence and the presence of guns,” she said.

Waterloo Region reported six homicides in 2015. Put another way, that represents 1.11 out of every 100,000 people in the region being a victim of homicide.

That total places the region 25th out of the 34 Canadian metropolitan areas surveyed in the report.

“We’ve really held the line on homicides,” Larkin said.

With reporting by Nicole Lampa