Police stats showcase the impact of Winnipeg’s meth problem

Winnipeg is in the grips of a meth crisis and it’s only going to get worse according the city’s police chief.

Danny Smyth held a news conference Monday to release the city’s 2018 statistical report.

The 40-page report gives a glimpse into how bad the problem actually is.

“Property crime has risen by a startling 19 per cent, and with the exception of arson, I think every category that was track has gone up significantly,” Smyth said.

Smyth said meth is the driving force behind the rise in crime.

Police received 618,321 calls requesting assistance last year, according to the report, resulting in a five per cent increase from 2017.

The majority of these calls are people seeking assistance or wellbeing checks along with instances of disturbances.

Police are tied up addressing these matters while non-urgent calls can go left unattended for up to days at a time, said Smyth.

This also extends into other service providers.

“The status quo is putting tremendous strain on police and paramedics and frankly our hospital emergency departments,” he said.

Smyth is calling on the province to create a meth-specific detox shelter.

Main Street Project currently runs a detox facility but it’s designed for alcohol.

“We need some kind of facility… so that people that are in distress or need care can be transitioned from police or paramedics to other care providers,” said Smyth.

When questioned about the need for more treatment options Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said the province has recently added 34 beds for people seeking help for addictions and mental health.

“There’s certainly treatment available. We may need to look at capacity,” Cullen said by phone Monday.

“We’ll certainly work with Manitoba Health to look at capacity issues,” he added.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said this isn’t enough.

Last month, a report from the Illicit Drug Task Force, a collaborative effort between federal, provincial and municipal levels of government, put forth 22 recommendations to address the rise of meth use.

Bowman said he’s yet to see substantial efforts from the province to tackle some of the recommendations.

“Until there are robust and serious investments…we’re going to be having similar conversations,” he said.

In 2018, there were 22 homicides. Winnipeg has surpassed that total with 25 as of this week.

Smyth worries if things don’t change next year will be worse.


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