An unsuspecting woman was stabbed in the arm with a needle and syringe containing an unknown substance while shopping at St. Vital Centre Wednesday in what Winnipeg police are calling a random attack.

Officers said the female suspect, who is now in custody, was in the same store as the victim when the victim was stabbed at around 7:30 p.m. without warning.

It’s the second attack involving a needle in Winnipeg this month but some worry it won’t be the last.

“We’ve seen a number of recent incidents where syringes have been used as weapons. It’s a disgusting and appalling trend,” said Winnipeg Police Service Const. Jay Murray. “It would be absolutely terrifying for any victim.”

“The individual was just shopping -- the victim -- and was approached by this female and stabbed in the arm.”

On June 20, a security guard at Health Sciences Centre was assaulted and suffered a stab wound in a confrontation with a man carrying a syringe, but police said they were not able to confirm what the man was stabbed with in that case.

In the St. Vital incident, police allege a search of the suspect revealed she had 1.1 grams of methamphetamine, a number of syringes, stolen merchandise and identification in the name of another woman.

Murray said the suspect and victim weren’t known to each other and that the motivation for the attack is not known. Officers said the suspect was intoxicated but couldn’t elaborate further.

General patrol and central traffic unit members responded to the incident and worked with mall security to locate the suspect who fled to a different part of the mall after the victim was stabbed.

The victim was transported to hospital where she received medical treatment.

Shelley Marshall, a clinical nurse specialist with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, said the risk of HIV infection from a needle stick is less than one per cent, even it had been used previously by a person infected with HIV or hepatitis C.

“Those are actually fairly low risks,” said Marshall. “We always tell people go to an emergency room or an urgent care centre where they can assess you for post-exposure prophylaxis.”

“I would say one of the main health harms is the trauma and psychological distress that can come along with that kind of thing happening, unprovoked in a place that you consider quite safe. So that’s a significant harm that shouldn’t go unnoticed.”

St. Vital Centre declined CTV Winnipeg’s request for an on camera interview but in an emailed statement retail manager Kyle Waterman said the mall takes the recent incident and all matters of safety of patrons, tenants and personnel very seriously.

“All of our staff undergo diligent emergency and safety training, and we work closely with the Winnipeg Police Service and Winnipeg Fire/Paramedic Services in training for and reacting to emergencies,” the statement read. “The safety of all our employees, tenants, and patrons is and will remain our highest priority.”

St. Boniface Street Links executive director Marion Willis said she’s not surprised to hear of the attack and worries it won’t be the last because of the prevalence of methamphetamine use in the city.

“Generally speaking when people are in meth psychosis they are delusional, they tend to be psychotic,” said Willis. “They tend to believe that everybody around them is trying to get them, that they somehow need to protect themselves.”

“So if you’re carrying needles, I guess that becomes your weapon.”

Jessie Kayla Genaille, 30, of Winnipeg has been charged with aggravated assault, administering a noxious thing with intent to endanger life or cause bodily harm.

Genaille has also been charged with possession of methamphetamine, possession of an identity document, theft under $5000 and two counts of failing to comply with probation order.