'Continuing and worrying trend': Violent crime in Winnipeg rises, reports say
Crime data released Monday shows more people reporting violent crimes such as sexual assaults, robberies
More people in Winnipeg were victims of violent crimes last year, according to crime statistics released Monday.
The Winnipeg Police Service reported an eight per cent increase in violent crimes in 2016 over the previous year, which is consistent with the provincial trend.
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Violent crime associated with gangs and drugs presents "a continuing and worrying trend," a press release from Winnipeg police says.
"Officers are dealing with the problems associated with methamphetamine, cocaine and opioids on a daily basis," the news release says. "Street gangs compete for territory, often leading to violence. Drug users often resort to crimes to fuel their addiction."
Attempted murder, aggravated sexual assaults, sexual assaults with a weapon and other sexual offences, including those against children, all saw dramatic increases compared to 2015.
Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth said this is the second year in a row now that both the crime rate and crime severity index have risen.
"They are significant numbers. In addition we are experiencing pretty high call volumes coming into our [communications] centre which has also resulted in our high numbers of calls for dispatch service," he said.
He said the methamphetamine and opioid trade have led to an increase in gang activity as well as property crime and theft related to fuelling an addiction.
"For the average person, unless you are involved in the drug trade or a gang member, I don't think you are going to notice a huge difference," he said.
StatsCan reports rise in crime severity
Statistics Canada data, also released on Monday, shows that nationally there was a small one per cent increase in the crime severity index, which measures the volume and severity of crime. In Manitoba, however, it rose eight per cent.
When broken down by metropolitan areas, Winnipeg saw an increased crime severity index of 16 per cent, which Statistics Canada said was caused by a rise in robberies and break-ins.
Just under two-thirds of Canada's census metropolitan areas had increases in the severity of police-reported crimes.
Winnipeg police also reported an increase in property crimes, including a 32 per cent increase in arson. Theft and fraud reports were also up, while crimes related to drug possession were down, especially those relating to marijuana and cocaine.
Counterfeiting reports were up 647 per cent, and child pornography crimes rose by more than 300 per cent.
In total, nearly 52,000 crimes were reported to police in Winnipeg, seven per cent more than in 2015. The population also rose, bringing the increase per capita to four per cent, when comparing the number of crimes per 100,000 people.
University of Manitoba criminologist Frank Cormier said while the numbers may look shocking, overall violent crime continues to decrease year over year in Canada.
"My prediction is that violent crime rates will continue to decrease overall, subject to minor fluctuations from year to year," he said.
The fluctuations can also look larger because of changes in reporting, legislation or even where police target their resources, he said. For most people, the increase in numbers won't lead to an impact on their lives.
"Normally what we find, even with what can look like a substantial increase in crime, we are not seeing an increase in danger," he said.
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With files from Holly Caruk