The Winnipeg Police Service released grim crime numbers for 2018, attributed to the meth crisis.

“Meth continues to be the driver of crime in our city,” said Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman.

Total crimes tracked by the service are up 12 per cent from 2017 to 2018.

Property crimes are up 19 per cent year over year and 44 per cent over the five-year average.

The yearly comparison includes:

  • a 19 per cent hike for break and enters;
  • 24 per cent for possess stolen property;
  • 21 per cent for motor vehicle thefts and
  • 28 per cent for theft under $5,000.

Arson is down 22 percent.

Violent crimes did not increase but are up 18 per cent over the five-year average. The yearly comparison includes a big increase in firearms offenses, 45 per cent, and a 10 per cent jump in robberies.

Police Chief Danny Smyth says meth is harming the community.

“We are in the midst of a meth crisis. Full stop,” said Smyth.

The chief says the amount of calls for help is taking a toll on members of the service and he says it keeps him up at night. There were 618,321 calls for help in 2018, a 5.5 per cent increase from 2017.

“Just in the past week we had a homicide, a police shooting, an in-custody death, a police vehicle stolen, and a nasty suicide attempt on a public street,” said Smyth.

“Seven police officers have been pulled from regular duties while we assess their physical and behavioral health after being involved in these critical incidents.”

Smyth also says employees are leaving the communications centre because of the “tremendous stress” of managing the number of calls.

Trend continues

It appears 2019 is not faring any better.

Winnipeg recorded 22 homicides last year, halfway through 2019, Winnipeg has 25.

“Violent crime rates remain high and have not improved in 2018,” said Smyth. “I can tell you that half way through 2019, things are getting worse.”

The chief is calling on all levels of government to do more, specifically the provincial government. The chief says safe shelters and detox units could provide relief until long term treatment is in place.

“It will allow our people to get back on the road,” said Smyth.

Last week Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said the province is working on a policing strategy to free up officers from attending non police calls.

“It doesn’t give me a road map of where we’re going,” said Smyth.

Monday afternoon, the province provided this statement to CTV News:

"We remain committed to combatting the rising use and distribution of illicit drugs, including methamphetamine, in our communities.

To date, we have implemented 27 recommendations from the VIRGO report, the most comprehensive look at mental health and addictions services that has ever been produced in Manitoba.

Further, Ministers Cullen and Friesen met with Mayor Bowman last fall to discuss the rising use and distribution of illicit drugs, including methamphetamine, in our communities. As a result of that meeting, the illicit drug task force – which was co-chaired by the mayor’s chief corporate services officer and included multiple members of the Winnipeg Police Service – began to take shape.

Less than a month after the task force report’s release, nearly half of all recommendations made in the report have been enacted or are in the process of being implemented.

Work has and will continue through the voluntary blackout and writ periods on enacting other recommendations from both the VIRGO and task force reports."