String of firearms incidents fuelled by city's meth problem, police say
Officers responded to several robberies and one shooting between Aug. 14 and 16
Winnipeg police responded to five separate firearms-related incidents over the course of two days, a cluster of violence they say is related to the city's continuing meth problem.
"I think what's critical here is to point out that in each and every one of these incidents, we believe that drugs were somehow underlying or the basis of the incident," Winnipeg Police Service spokesperson Const. Rob Carver said.
"And in every incident, what started with drugs ended up with firearms."
The string of incidents began at 1:15 a.m. on Aug. 14, when two female robbers, one armed with a long gun, held up a grocery store in the West Alexander area.
The person with the shotgun chased customers out of the store, while the other stole items from behind the counter. Both fled and no one was injured.
That same day at 11:20 p.m., a female robber pulled out a handgun and stole an undisclosed amount of cash from a grocery store in the Weston area.
The same grocery store was held up the next day at 10:50 p.m. by a female robber armed with a handgun. Investigators are looking into the possibility the same person was involved in both robberies, Carver said.
At 10:20 p.m. on Aug. 15, a man with a sawed-off shotgun entered a restaurant in the Centennial neighbourhood. Officers responded and safely disarmed and arrested a suspect, with no injuries.
The suspect appeared to be coming out of meth-induced psychosis, Carver said.
At 11:15 p.m., two male robbers stole from a 16-year-old boy walking in the Fort Rouge area. One had a firearm, the other had a knife.
The two fled in a vehicle, and police found the vehicle a short time later and arrested two suspects.
A sixth incident occurred the next day when officers responded to a call about a person shot in the east end of the city. The victim was taken to hospital in critical condition, and the major crimes unit is investigating.
Other than the grocery store that was robbed twice, police don't think any of the incidents are connected, Carver said.
Any time there is a firearms call, at least two officers respond, and there are multiple units that must respond any time someone is shot, Carver said.
"This is an incredible draw on Winnipeg Police Service resources," he said. "This is what we're facing on a daily basis."
The police service is in the process of developing a comprehensive strategy to combat meth and other drug-fuelled crime in the city, Carver said.
Given the potential for violence in these situations, Carver asked for patience from people reporting thefts and other property-related crimes.
"We want to get there as fast as we can, but when someone walks into a restaurant with a loaded sawed-off shotgun, you want to see at least two officers, if not four or six, show up and make sure that guy's safely taken into custody," he said.