Police unit needed to deal with increasing gun violence: Opposition

Since the start of October, 10 people have been shot in Winnipeg, prompting calls for more police to investigate gun crimes.

Since the start of October, 10 people have been shot in Winnipeg, prompting calls for more police to investigate gun crimes.

It's a miracle that no one's been killed, says Loren Schinkel, president of the Winnipeg Police Association.

"The luck is going to run out at some time," said Schinkel, a veteran officer with 30 years experience.

"We're in a war zone here."

Winnipeg police Det.-Sgt. Paul Brown said he has never seen so many guns on the streets in his 20 years on the job.

"We're seeing more and more people carry guns out on the street. We're certainly seizing more guns in search warrants and at crime scenes. And we're seeing more shootings," Brown, who is assigned to the RCMP's national weapons enforcement support team, told CBC News on Tuesday.

"Certainly innocent bystanders are being affected or are being shot and we're seeing drive-by shootings at a rate that 15 to 20 years ago we just didn't seem to see."

The latest shooting, which happened early Sunday, erupted after a fight at the Empire Cabaret, an upscale nightclub less than a block from Portage Avenue and Main Street. Four people, whom police described as "innocent bystanders," suffered gunshot wounds.

Two men were also shot downtown early Saturday, but little is known about what happened because the victims aren't co-operating with investigators. Police do not believe the shootings are connected.

Of the six people shot on the weekend, only a 32-year-old man who was shot in the upper body remains in hospital. No arrests have been made.

The violent weekend prompted the Opposition Tories' call on Manitoba Justice Minister Dave Chomiak to fund a full-time firearms enforcement unit aimed at fighting gun smuggling.

"Without that, it's just on an ad-hoc basis, and that's a problem," said justice critic Gerald Hawranik.

"Without dedicating police officers to that unit, it's not going to happen. They're busy enough already."

A spokesman for Manitoba's justice minister fired back at the Progressive Conservative's suggestion, accusing the Opposition of "playing politics" since it would be up to the city, not the province, to create such a unit.

Acting Winnipeg police chief Menno Zacharias said the force hasn't considered making a full-time firearms unit.

"It's something that's perhaps worth looking at, based on the level of firearms incidents in Winnipeg," Zacharias said Monday.

In Manitoba, two officers are assigned full time to look into gun crimes.

By comparison, Ontario has a total of 58 officers from a variety of police forces working on a team dedicated to firearms investigations, formally known as the Provincial Weapons Enforcement Support Unit.