File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman speaks to media after the reading of the throne speech at the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg.

Prairie police chiefs call on Ottawa for help as meth-fuelled crime skyrockets

OTTAWA — Police chiefs say methamphetamine is fuelling a crime wave in some of Western Canada’s biggest cities as use of the highly addictive drug skyrockets across the Prairies.

Calgary’s interim police Chief Steve Barlow told a House of Commons health committee Tuesday that the city’s crime rate is going through the roof as the price of meth drops.

“When I look at the tools on an officer’s belt, there isn’t a single one to help a person in the throes of addiction,” Barlow said. “We will not arrest our way out of this problem.”

Meth is behind some recent violent and unprovoked attacks, Barlow said. On one occasion, he said a woman stabbed three random people in 20 minutes. In another, a senior sitting on a downtown bench was stabbed multiple times.

A woman was left paralyzed last month after she was pushed into the path of an oncoming transit train. The suspect is believed to have been high on meth, Barlow said.

The drug is also motivating residential break-ins, car theft and other property crimes.

It’s driven by a rise in the amount of meth on the street and a dramatic drop in the addictive drug’s cost — to about $50 a gram now from about $150 in 2015. That means one hit of meth costs about $5.

Officers are worn out and more resources are needed to address the root causes of addiction and to help people get clean, Barlow told the committee.

He predicts 2018 will see a record number of meth seizures in his city — more than 1,769 — which is 130 per cent above the five-year average.

Winnipeg’s police Chief Danny Smyth told the committee his officers have seized more than 20 kilograms of meth this year — nearly double what was seized in 2017.

Barlow and Smyth said the meth on their streets is being smuggled into British Columbia from Mexico.

Drug-related crime, in turn, is causing a big backlog in responses to calls for service in Winnipeg, because officers are tied up in health-care facilities with meth users, Smyth said.

“It prevents us from getting into the community and doing proactive work.”

Numbers from Winnipeg’s health authority show a 1,200 per cent increase in people going to hospitals because of methamphetamine — up from 12 in April 2013 to 218 this past April.

Documents obtained by the Manitoba NDP under freedom-of-information legislation also show a rise in communicable diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis which are associated with intravenous drug use.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman told the committee Ottawa must include meth in a national strategy on illicit drugs, strengthen border protection and provide more resources for mental health.

“Meth doesn’t distinguish between the area of the city in which you reside, your family’s income,” he said. “Addictions and mental health really know no bounds and we are seeing that here in the city of Winnipeg.”

Just Posted

Maskwacis RCMP arrest, charge wanted man

A Maskwacis man is facing weapons-related charges after allegedly resisting arrest. Two… Continue reading

The shelter is full: Many abused women and children in central Alberta will face a tough holiday

Alberta has one of highest domestic violence rates in the country, says a report

‘Heart of darkness:’ Closing arguments in Calgary quadruple killing trial

CALGARY — Lawyers for a pair accused in a quadruple killing say… Continue reading

Chinese ambassador warns Canada against adopting motion calling for sanctions

MONTREAL — China’s new ambassador to Canada is threatening “very firm countermeasures”… Continue reading

Liberal MP Anthony Rota upsets Regan to become Speaker in minority Parliament

OTTAWA — Liberal MP Anthony Rota has been elected Speaker of the… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Tuesday The Central Alberta Council on Aging will hold its Christmas General… Continue reading

‘Heart of darkness:’ Closing arguments in Calgary quadruple killing trial

CALGARY — Lawyers for a pair accused in a quadruple killing say… Continue reading

Milan Lucic scores first as a Flame, Calgary beats Buffalo

Flames 5 Sabres 3 CALGARY — Milan Lucic scored his first goal… Continue reading

Chinese ambassador warns Canada against adopting motion calling for sanctions

MONTREAL — China’s new ambassador to Canada is threatening “very firm countermeasures”… Continue reading

Liberal MP Anthony Rota upsets Regan to become Speaker in minority Parliament

OTTAWA — Liberal MP Anthony Rota has been elected Speaker of the… Continue reading

Supreme Court won’t hear appeal from former Nazi death squad member

Jewish groups across the country hailed the Supreme Court’s decision not to… Continue reading

Consensus comes 30 years later that Montreal massacre was an anti-feminist act

MONTREAL — Thirty years after the worst mass shooting in Canadian history,… Continue reading

Angry Alberta legislature sitting ends with cross-party fight over room booking

EDMONTON — The fall sitting of the Alberta legislature has wrapped up,… Continue reading

Most Read