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Rural police get upgrades

Nearly $120,000 seized from criminals will go to police in Morden, Winkler and Altona, Justice Minister Andrew Swan said Friday.

The funds come from the province's criminal property forfeiture program, with half of the $120,000 to be used to outfit a new, dedicated vehicle for the canine unit in Morden, which also provides its services to neighbouring communities.

The purchase will help to improve response times and increase the likelihood of a successful police operation, Swan said. The canine unit was first established in Morden in 2010 to help track suspects and locate illegal drugs.

"No community is immune to the effects of crime," Swan said. "It's important to invest in specialized equipment across the province and expand the tools available to law enforcement agencies to uphold the law and keep residents safe."

The Altona Police Service has received more than $44,700 to purchase a new digital-fingerprinting system that will provide nearly instant results, Swan said. The previous method of checking fingerprints could take up to 120 days for routine, non-criminal matters.

The Winkler Police Agency will upgrade 10 FleetNet radios to allow the use of an encrypted radio channel with a grant of over $15,000. The new system will improve officer safety and the overall success of police operations when executing search warrants because suspects and other members of the public will be unable to pick up police information on scanners.

Northern fire evacuations

RAIN has slowed a forest fire in a remote part of northern Manitoba, but there was a significant spike in the number of evacuees sent south due to heavy smoke Friday, government officials reported.

There are now 650 evacuees from Tataskweyak Cree Nation who've been moved out of their homes.

The fire had burned approximately 16,000 hectares of forest by the weekend and it had moved to within eight kilometres of the First Nation at Split Lake.

The Manitoba Association of Native Firefighters confirmed it was working with the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to co-ordinate evacuations.

On Thursday, there were 176 people who'd been flown out of the remote community, with 109 sent to Winnipeg.

By Friday, there were 565 evacuees in Winnipeg and another 85 in Thompson, according to figures supplied to the province.

The evacuees were people with respiratory ailments, along with the elderly and pregnant women from the community.

Split Lake is home to 2,400 people and is 772 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

Manitoba Conservation water bombers and helicopters fought the fire Friday. Rain and high humidity meant that crews and aircraft had welcome help from Mother Nature to battle the blaze, a provincial spokesman said.

RCMP building fired on

A Shamattawa man has been arrested for firing a shot into the Shamattawa RCMP detachment early Monday using a high-powered rifle.

At the time, RCMP personnel were working in the building and there were a number of prisoners in cells. However, no one was injured.

Reid Branford Hill, 32, was arrested by RCMP officers with the assistance of the public.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 20, 2013 A14

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