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Manitoba to hire 10 prosecutors to target violent crime

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With violent crimes rising across Canada, the provincial government says it is spending $1.4 million to hire 10 additional prosecutors to target organized crime and illegal gun trafficking.

On Tuesday, Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen said these 10 new positions will increase the Manitoba Prosecution Service's capacity to prosecute those charged with violent crimes and crimes where an illegal firearm is involved.

"We do know that violent crime including weapons-related crime is on the rise, not just in Manitoba… but it is happening across Canada," he said.

Recent data from Statistics Canada released Monday shows northern Manitoba has one of the higher rural crime rates in Canada.

"It is important that we focus on prosecuting those who are alleged to have been involved in these crimes."

Goertzen said the positions will be added to the Manitoba Prosecution Service firearms working group and criminal organization unit. He said the new hires will bring expertise and resources to deal with 'complex' firearm trafficking and manufacturing investigations and will help manage increased case files.

"I have heard from prosecutors and they said we have got perhaps too many files or the files are becoming more complex – the start of that is ensuring that there are positions available," he said.

Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth said the announcement of more persecutors is welcome news. He said he wants to see prosecutors focus on bail reform, adding Winnipeg police often see repeat offenders.

"I can tell you just locally, we've encountered several in just the last month where people were out on bail for violent or gun-related offences and then we've encountered them again for another violent offence," he said.

When asked where the province will hire these prosecutors from, Goertzen said there are challenges across society to fill positions.

"I think that in prosecutions, this is the kind of work that will attract individuals," he said.

Goertzen said the province is already looking at filling these 10 new positions, but added it will likely take a couple of months.

The announcement is welcome news for the Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, which told CTV News the justice system is 'chronically underfunded.'

"We trust that while additional funds have been allocated to the prosecution of crime, likewise the government will provide additional funds to legal aid Manitoba to ensure that there is balance between the state and the often vulnerable people in the criminal justice system," the association told CTV News in a prepared statement.

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