Despite the current concerns about policing, crime was down for the two years of the pandemic, says Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen. Now with a return to normal activity, it feels like there has been a sharp increase, and throughout North America, the feeling is the same. “Numbers one and two on the concern list are affordability and crime and crime and affordability,” he said. This may be partly the result of the “defund the police movement” and the resulting media focus on violent crime as well as the large number of mass shootings in the US in recent months.
In Winnipeg, though, says Kelvin, the vast majority of violence occurs between people who know each other rather from than random attacks. Random attacks usually have their genesis in mental illness and drugs.
He also says the incidence of gun violence is far behind knifing in our town.
“For most local criminal, knives are the weapons of choice,” he says. “Carrying a gun puts you at risk of arrest and knives are easier to conceal.” Also of concern is the number of crimes committed by people who are at will on bail. If you do commit a crime and get arrested, carrying a gun restricts bail access, while no such law applies to knives.
The minister is working to convince the Federal government, which administers criminal law, that as far as bail goes, knife crimes should be treated the same as those committed with guns. You would have to prove why you should be allowed out on bail.
We hear a lot about gangs and gang violence, he says, but most local gangs are loose affiliations of younger people rather than the seriously organized criminal gangs such as the Hell’s Angels. That doesn’t mean that organized crime doesn’t exist or that these loose affiliations are less dangerous. They can be harder to control by cracking down on the leaders because the easily re-form.
Recently Operation Divergent, a multinational and Canada-wide operation, led by RCMP in Manitoba, has crimped organized activities, at least for the time being. In this recent case, more than $70 million in drugs and cash were seized and 20 people, 17 from Manitoba, were arrested.
On the less organized scale, our police have done a good job in closing drug manufacturing in Winnipeg, but it is very easy to bring drugs in from the west coast. You can’t check every car that travels down the highway. Opiates also come in through a porous border, brought up from Mexico. The deadly fentanyl is still a major concern.
A biproduct of illicit drug use is the impact on our health system, says the minister. And it isn’t just a Winnipeg issue. While property crime and drug use are more visible in the city, he says, this a significant issue in rural communities as well.
Today, cybercrime has become rampant as fraudsters from outside our borders can easily reach individuals with all sorts of nefarious schemes – everything from luring kids to defrauding seniors of hard-earned savings. The province has recently boosted funding to hire specialists and acquire the technology needed to deal with tracing the use of crypto currency used in internet frauds and scams.
While social programs supporting addiction, mental health, poverty and disadvantage are all important, there will always be those who are looking for a way to get what others have. There will always be those who have hate in their hearts and are out to do damage. There will always be those who are unhappy and take it out on others.
At the end of the day, says the minister, “some people are just intent on committing crime.” We have to deal with this and do the best we can to protect the innocent.
Despite all that, he has hope. Even though our society right now is all about immediate gratification, Kelvin Goertzen knows that patience and determination can, over time, succeed in curbing the worst excesses and will, he believes, achieve the premier’s goal to make people feel safe going for a walk again.
August measures taken Justice to reduce crime
Aug. 2: Increased support to Bear Clan chapters to enhance community safety initiatives
Aug. 3: Targeting cyber criminals by providing additional tools, training to Winnipeg Police Officers
Aug. 9: Combats money laundering by expanding criminal property forfeiture branch
Aug 16: Targets guns used in crime
Aug. 25: Addressing knife-related violent crime
Social service measures
Aug 3: Provide 100 supportive recovery housing beds at Riverwood house
Aug. 9: More than $8 million to Manitoba businesses through Canada Manitoba job grant to support workforce training
Aug. 9: Expand opiate agonist addictions treatment in Interlake
Aug. 11: More than $5.4 million in new funding to support homelessness initiatives
To read more detail on such announcement, please go to: https://news.gov.mb.ca/news/