Multiple homicides, shooting ramp up pressure on Winnipeg police resources

WINNIPEG — The police chief in Manitoba’s capital says a deadly weekend has strained resources as investigators deal with three homicides and a shooting that left four people, including an infant, in hospital.

Danny Smyth says too much of the violent crime is linked to addictions and the drug trade surrounding the methamphetamine crisis gripping Winnipeg.

“At least a third of those are drug- or gang-related and it’s a lot to do with the impact that methamphetamine has had on the community,” Smyth said Monday.

There have been seven homicides in the city in three weeks, pushing the number of killings to 36 so far this year — just below the record of 41 in 2011 when a gang rivalry was linked to the violence.

Police have said a man fired a shotgun into a north-end home on Sunday afternoon before fleeing. The three adults wounded were stable Monday, while the baby’s injuries were not considered life-threatening.

Early Sunday morning, two men were found injured in a back lane and later died in hospital.

A 14-year-old girl was killed and an 18-year-old woman was taken to hospital in critical condition after a stabbing at a Halloween party the night before.

Smyth said the weekend killings were still being investigated and he could not say if they were linked to gangs or drugs.

No charges have been laid, but some people from the Halloween party were detained.

The chief, saying the surge in violence isn’t something police can solve on their own, renewed his call for more addictions resources. Strategies are also needed to prevent youth from joining gangs and to help those looking to leave them, he added.

“This isn’t something that you can just arrest somebody and lock them up and think that’s going to solve the problem,” he said.

“We’ve been talking about this in the community for years now and we are seeing some of that play out this weekend.”

The Addictions Foundation of Manitoba has said meth use has increased by more than 100 per cent in adults and nearly 50 per cent in youth since 2014. The number of people in publicly funded addictions programs who reported using meth more than doubled between 2014-15 and 2016-17, a government-commissioned report released in June said.

Winnipeg Police Service’s own statistical report for 2018 shows property crime increased by nearly 20 per cent from the previous year and was 44 per cent higher than the five-year average. Smyth has linked it to the meth crisis.

There were spikes in the number of break-in, vehicle theft, fraud and mischief investigations. Violent crime rates also remained high and robberies shot up about 10 per cent.

Const. Jay Murray said the weekend’s violence has been particularly difficult because of the age of some of the victims, notably the 14-year-old girl.

“You never want to hear about a homicide, because wherever there is a homicide there are friends and family that are grieving,” he said.

“It’s especially troubling when it’s a young individual who really hasn’t had a crack at life yet.”

Winnipeg police usually investigate between 20 and 22 homicides each year. The spike in homicides has been unusual, Murray said. Usually killings happen in the summer, but this year has seen deadlier months in the spring and fall.

Random homicides remain uncommon, he added.

“You need to know the people you hang out with.”

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