Manitoba

Crime, drugs in Winnipeg's West End focus of police public forum

A public crime forum is set to tackle problems afflicting Winnipeg's West End — problems police say are fuelled by methamphetamine.

Comes on the heels of Sunday's violent home invasion that left Jaime Adao Jr. dead

Insp. Max Waddell is the supervisor of the organized crime unit with the Winnipeg Police Service. (CBC)

A public crime forum is set to tackle problems afflicting Winnipeg's West End — problems police say are fuelled by methamphetamine.

Meth, being cheap and easily available, "has significantly changed the landscape of Winnipeg," said Insp. Max Waddell of the Winnipeg Police Service's organized crime unit.

But it has also heightened the challenges facing the public and police in that it makes people extremely unpredictable.

"It causes a state of psychosis that makes people act in erratic and bizarre ways," Waddell said.

"Its addictive cycle is very powerful, and there are a number of individuals that are impacted by it in the City of Winnipeg right now."

The forum, hosted by the police service at Daniel McIntyre Collegiate, was planned a long time ago but comes on the heels of Sunday's violent home invasion that left 17-year-old Jaime Adao Jr. dead.

A 29-year-old man accused of attacking the teen inside the McGee Street house was shot on site by police and remains in hospital in critical condition.

We need to collectively work together to share information and resources and find solutions to the challenges. By coming out tonight that's exactly what we hope to achieve.- Insp . Max  Waddell

"It's a very unfortunate and tragic incident that [happened] in their neighbourhood … and we want everyone to know that the Winnipeg Police Service is here to support them in every way and shape possible," Waddell said.

A 25-year member of the police force, he can't recall an incident in the city like that, where the attack was apparently completely random.

"It is so rare and for that family, I'm sure, it is beyond reality," he said. "Usually when we have someone going into a residence it's a targeted incident where they're looking for drugs or property.

"We don't know why this individual went in. We're as shocked and upset as the community is."

Police have not said whether a meth psychosis was a factor in the deadly assault on Adao.

The incident underscores the importance of Thursday's forum, for the community and police to come together to find ways to address crime, including addictions and gang issues, Waddell said.

"The community needs to come together. The police and other resources — we can't do this alone," he said. 

"We need to collectively work together to share information and resources and find solutions to the challenges. By coming out tonight that's exactly what we hope to achieve."

"We want to hear and engage with the people to create plans."

Ethnically diverse

The ethnically-diverse West End — home to more than 46,000 people and comprised of nine neighbourhoods — is bordered by Route 62 (Osborne, Memorial, Colony and Balmoral) to the east and St. James Street on the west.

As the middle jurisdiction between north and south sections of the city, it seems to also be a meeting place for "a lot of terrible individuals" like drug dealers and gang members who prey on newcomers that settle there, attempting to lure their youth into illicit activities, Waddell said.

Now add meth to the mix.

"The combination of those factors cause a lot of challengers for that neighbourhood," Waddell said.

Thursday's forum at the collegiate, 720 Alverstone St., runs from 6 p.m. CT until 9 p.m. with presentations starting at 7 p.m.

​Police Chief Danny Smyth and the Winnipeg Police Board will be in attendance along with representatives from Addictions Foundation Manitoba and the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Services.

Police drug experts will speak on meth while a gang awareness presentation will focus on keeping kids from joining street gangs.

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