'Unprecedented' spike in firearm seizures concerns Winnipeg police

It's only August, but so far in 2017 police have seized nearly a year's worth of guns.

Nearly 1,000 guns seized in first 9 months of 2017

Barring some kind of unexpected — if not welcomed — slump in firearm-related crime in the city this fall, Winnipeg police are on track to seize more guns by year's end than the previous four years. 1:39

It's only August, but so far in 2017 police have seized nearly a year's worth of guns. 

Since January, police have recovered 994 firearms, more than they seized in all of 2013 and quickly approaching annual totals for 2014, 2015 and 2016. 

It's a spike that prompted Const. Jay Murray to make a plea to the public to report illegal gun activity, the same call Const. Tammy Skrabek issued in July after a weekend of shootings sent four to hospital.

"There have been a lot of firearms in the city this year. It's an unprecedented amount," Murray said. 

"In talking with the firearms investigative analysis unit, or section, they've seen a quantity of guns this year already that they normally don't see until the end of prior years."

Murray made the comments Sunday at the end of a news conference that included details about a home that was mistakenly targeted on Selkirk Avenue Saturday.

A family of three was terrified but uninjured after shots were fired at their rental suite. A short time later police arrested and charged three men with various firearm-related offences.

The property manager of the building told CBC News the family moved in just three days before the shooting, roughly two weeks after the previous tenants left the suite unexpectedly.

"I think they thought they knew the people that were in the residence, but it was a new young family that was living there and they were unintended targets," Murray said.

"Wrong house or right house, it's concerning. The fact that they would have a firearm and be willing to discharge it in the city towards where somebody lives … it's very concerning."

Outpacing 2013-16

The 994 guns seized by Aug. 21 is already higher than 2013's total, and surpasses the number of guns seized by November in 2014, 2015 and 2016. And it's only expected to grow in the next four months, police say. 

(CBC News Graphics)

A police spokesperson told CBC News that typically guns related to crime make up about 60 per cent of their seized-firearm inventory. That translates to approximately 600 crime-related guns seized in just over 7½ months in Winnipeg.

More than 260 were handguns or sawed-off guns, another 190 were sawed-off rifles or shotguns and 160 were long guns, police said.

The spokesperson did not provide information about where all of the guns are coming from nor did they provide an explanation as to why Winnipeg is experiencing a spike this year.

"These firearms are being used and they're being used to hurt individuals and damage property and scare individuals," Murray said.

Police encourage anyone with knowledge of an illegal firearm to contact investigators at 204-986-6508 or Crime Stoppers at 204-786-8477.

About the Author

Bryce Hoye


Bryce Hoye is an award-winning journalist and science writer with a background in wildlife biology. Before joining CBC Manitoba, he worked for the Canadian Wildlife Service monitoring birds in Manitoba, the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia and Alberta. Story idea? Email bryce.hoye@cbc.ca.

With files from Kelly Malone