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Violent crimes continuing to rise in Winnipeg according to latest police data

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New data from the Winnipeg Police Service's 2023 statistical report shows total crimes in the city were down compared to 2022; however, violent crimes are on the rise.

The latest data shows the total number of crimes in Winnipeg was down 2.2 per cent compared to 2022 – 70,472 compared to 72,061. However, crime is still up over the five-year average of 64,879.

Violent crimes saw the largest jump year-over-year at 12.1 per cent and it's up 31.4 per cent when looking at the five-year average.

The data on violent crimes was broken down by the weapon used – bear spray, knives, firearms or other weapons.

The use of bear spray was down to 893 incidents from 1,182 in 2022, but every other weapon saw an increase.

Firearms were up slightly from 445 to 470. Violent crimes involving knives went up 21.6 per cent – 1,346 to 1,637 – and other weapons were also up from 1,911 incidents to 2,228 – a 16.6 per cent increase.

"It's worth noting that tighter regulations related to the sale and purchase of bear spray were enacted by the province in spring 2023. Prior to this, 2023 was on pace for another record year in terms of violence involving bear spray, trending up over 50 per cent in the first quarter of 2023," said data analyst David Bowman. "Following the enactment of the new regulations, the use of bear spray in violent crimes dropped nearly 40 per cent for the remainder of the year. It continues to decline rapidly in 2024."

Downtown Winnipeg and the Point Douglas neighbourhood were the two areas in the city that saw the most amount of crime involving a weapon, while Assiniboine South was on the opposite end of the scale.

Despite the climb in weapons use, the use of physical force still made up just more than 50 per cent of violent crimes. Strangers were the most likely to commit a violent crime at 44 per cent, followed by intimate partners at 19.3 per cent.

Of the 46 homicides in Winnipeg, two-thirds involved a firearm or knife. Nine of those homicides remain unsolved.

Robbery was the most violent crime, followed by sexual assault.

Shoplifting also spiked last year with more than 6,000 reported incidents, which doubles numbers in 2021.

Supt. Dave Dalal said these aren't problems that police can arrest their way out of.

"These crime problems need to be solved in partnership with other levels of government and community stakeholders. We will never police out way out of what's happening in our community. We need other solutions that are addressing the root causes. What we can bring partners is the data and the information that we can work with collaboratively to solve these problems together," said Dalal.

Youth involved in violent crime

When looking at all crimes in Winnipeg, youths make up about 10 per cent of people who are charged, but 14.4 per cent of people charged in violent crimes.

In 2023, there were 1,147 incidents of youths involved in violent crime compared to 907 in non-violent crimes.

Youths using weapons also rose for a second straight year to 447, with the report saying one in five people charged with a weapons crime is a youth.

Bear spray is the most common weapon for youth at 43.3 per cent followed by firearms at 25.6 per cent.

Going by age, 422 crimes were committed by 16-year-olds, 410 by 17-year-olds and 392 by 14-year-olds. There were also 77 crimes committed by kids under the age of 12, meaning they couldn't be charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

"We need to look at a whole wraparound services of these youth to find out what's driving them into this lifestyle and what's going to get them out of this lifestyle. And in some cases, it might be incarceration for some period of time until we can get them into proper support programs and that's why we need to work with government."

When asked about the data at a separate news conference Tuesday, Mayor Scott Gillingham said it is concerning to see the information.

"This is something I have raised directly with the prime minister one-on-one. I've raised it with the premier as well, he and I have discussed it. There is a concern to youth crime and youth violent crime specifically and the types of weapons that are being used," said Gillingham.

He said he wants to continue to work with the police and provincial government to help bring down numbers.

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