Manitoba

More to crime surge than guns and meth, criminal justice prof says

A university professor who studies crime says there’s so much more to the violence happening in Winnipeg right now than just guns and drugs.

Social issues at root of violence, University of Winnipeg Prof. Katharina Maier says

There have been 19 homicides in Winnipeg this year. A professor who studies crime says people need to look at the root causes of issues such as drug use and gun violence. (Lyza Sale/CBC )

A university professor who studies crime says there's so much more to the violence happening in Winnipeg right now than just guns and drugs.

There have been 19 homicides in Winnipeg so far this year, the most recent a 17-year-old boy killed in the North End. 

At least six of those deaths involved guns, double the number in all of 2018.

Katharina Maier, an assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Winnipeg, says if we want to understand why this is happening, we need to look at the underlying factors that are driving drug use and violence.

"When we think about drug use and gun violence, they are not primarily crime issues. There are social issues worthy of our attention," she said.

"And often we find social and socioeconomic issues underlying drug use, crime and other social ills."

Gun violence a new reality 

Gun violence is the new reality on the streets of Winnipeg, Insp. Max Waddell of the Winnipeg Police Service's organized crime unit said last week. With more shootings comes more fear from the public, he said. 

The fear is "much more real than it has been in the past because of the number of incidents … the homicide count that we've had this year and the number of firearms that were involved," he said.

"I think people are really starting to take note of the danger that's attached to that."

Institutions need to work together 

Maier said it's understandable that people would be afraid for their safety.

"I think it would be inappropriate for me to say don't be concerned, don't fear for your safety, because everybody has a different exposure to violence and that should be taken very seriously," she said.

Maier said the criminal justice system should not be solely responsible for tackling Winnipeg's crime surge, and public institutions should be working together to address these root causes of violence.

With files from Sam Samson

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