Violent crime ticks up in Winnipeg in 2021: police data


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The number of violent crimes in Winnipeg rose in 2021, as property and other crimes fell, statistics released Wednesday show.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/07/2022 (319 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The number of violent crimes in Winnipeg rose in 2021, as property and other crimes fell, statistics released Wednesday show.

The Winnipeg Police Service’s 2021 report finds violent crime was up slightly from the year before (10,993 cases, a five per cent increase), while the number of homicides was well above the five-year average (for the third consecutive year).

The city scored 173.3 on the violent crime severity index, which is calculated by taking the volume of crime and the degree of seriousness.

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES A recent report indicates the number of violent crimes in Winnipeg rose by five per cent in 2021 over the previous year.

While the latest statistics for the other large Prairie cities were not yet available, Winnipeg is well ahead of the 2020 violent crime index for Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina and Thunder Bay, which scored 78.3, 127.4, 137.5, 135.7, and 159.7, respectively.

“I’ve been here a long time, and I’ve seen crime rates go up and down during the course of my career,” Winnipeg Police Service Chief Danny Smyth said Wednesday. “I try to isolate the violent crime (numbers) and, as we know, we’re trending up a little bit on that. It’s not unprecedented, but that causes me alarm and I think its important we address that.

“During this week, there has been a fair number of reporting that I’ve characterized this criminal violence as ‘normal.’ That is not the case, I’ve never characterized violence as normal. I’ve described it as alarming and a real concern.”

Among the 2021 numbers, Smyth said there are some good signs.

“I certainly noticed our guns and gangs unit and our general patrol unit, they are making a difference,” he said. “They seized over 850 guns which were used in crime last year… They are making a difference in removing firearms from the community.”

Last year, there were 43 homicides in Winnipeg, a 2.4 per cent increase from 2020. (There have been 27 homicides so far this year.)

In 2021, overall calls to the police communications centre increased by almost 10 per cent, but the number of events officers were dispatched to was lower than in 2020. Of the calls dispatched, well-being checks were up by nine per cent.

Despite dipping to 39,670 in 2021 (from 44,455, an 11 per cent drop), property-related cases still made up the majority of overall crimes, accounting for 69.8 per cent of crimes in Winnipeg.

Violent crimes were next at 19.4 per cent, followed by “other” crimes at 8.8 per cent (down 14 per cent from 2020 numbers), traffic crimes at 1.1 per cent (down 10 per cent from 2020 numbers) and drug crimes at 0.9 per cent (down 19 per cent from 2020 numbers).

University of Winnipeg criminologist Michael Weinrath said overall property crimes were down, but it was more because of the COVID-19 pandemic than anything law enforcement did.

“COVID kept people in their residences,” Weinrath said. “You don’t have as many people circulating around in public, so you don’t have as much opportunity to have thefts. People are home, so property crime and break ins are down.”

Marion Willis of St. Boniface Street Links, a community advocate for decades, said the failures resulting in crime in Winnipeg are systemic.

“If we don’t address sort of what’s the bigger systemic issue and the root, then there isn’t going to be any solution to them,” Willis said Wednesday.

“You can replace Danny Smyth as many times as you like, nothing’s going to change. He’s not the problem.”

The problem, Willis said, is a lack of cohesive collaboration with all levels of government to create a multi-disciplinary service delivery model that works toward common community goals.

“It’s not that there isn’t enough money, I think there’s money,” she said. “It’s not that there isn’t an understanding of what the need is, I think, so many of us understand what the need is.

“But it’s piecemeal, sort of ad hoc, to different groups and different organizations to find initiatives that are not part of an overall strategic plan, so you just end up with a very broken, scattered, fragmented landscape of services.”

On Wednesday, Mayor Brian Bowman deflected media questions about the violent crime numbers, saying: “What I see overall is crime is down and that is encouraging.”

“There are a number of factors we are seeing, and the trend lines are going in the right direction,” Bowman said. “(However), violent crime, obviously, is a source of concern — and should be a source of concern to all of us in the community and is one of the reasons why we should be tackling the root causes of violence.”

Coun. Markus Chambers, chairman of the Winnipeg Police Board, said coming out of the pandemic there are many people who are marginalized than ever before.

“A lot of it is about the economics, the amount of homelessness, the amount of addictions and mental health that we are experiencing that police are responding to on a daily basis,” Chambers said.

“If the province could step up and provide more resources around those issues, I think it will allow a lot more police resources to assist in crime prevention and reduction in crime.”

Meantime, Moe Sabourin, president of the Winnipeg Police Association, said he thinks the 2021 drop in property crimes could be a “statistical glitch.”

“We find the public is quite frustrated by the rep0rting system,” the union leader said. “People get frustrated and they don’t report it because they don’t think anyone will be caught.”

— with files from Malak Abas

Winnipeg Police 2021 Statistical Report

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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