The weekend slaying of a high school student in a West End home invasion drew scores of apprehensive neighbours to a forum on methamphetamine abuse and rising crime rates.

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The weekend slaying of a high school student in a West End home invasion drew scores of apprehensive neighbours to a forum on methamphetamine abuse and rising crime rates.

More than 150 people turned out Thursday evening at Daniel McIntyre Collegiate Institute for a meeting organized by the Winnipeg Police Service.

Some brought their children, others were older, but all were serious. Dozens of uniformed police officers stood talking quietly. Various community groups, with information pamphlets manned tables flanking one wall.

The forum was booked weeks in advance at the school on Alverstone Street, but it’s timing — in the aftermath of the Sunday night homicide — clearly raised the level of urgency among the crowd.

"Home is your safest place and it feels like that (homicide) robbed us of that sense of security, that sense of community," said Perla Javate, a retired school liaison officer who described the death of 17-year-old Jaime Adao "as a hit in the heart."

Ron Sison identified himself as an immigrant who came to Canada from the Philippines to raise a family in safety.

"We live three streets away from where that happened, and we walked here tonight. What do we do if something happens to us when we walk home?" the young father asked, pointing to his two children, a seven-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl.

"We came here to have a better life, not to die, to put it bluntly."

Jaime died Sunday shortly after calling 911 to report someone was trying to break into his family’s McGee Street home at around 9 p.m.

The Tech Voc High School student, who would have graduated in June, was fatally assaulted by a male suspect while on the phone with a 911 operator, police said.

Police said it took only four minutes from the time the 911 call came in to when officers arrived at the home and one or more officer fired their guns to stop the attack.

Jaime and the 29-year-old suspect were rushed to hospital. The teen was pronounced dead; as of Thursday, the man remained in critical condition.

"The focus of the forum is to educate the community on the dangers of methamphetamine, on (how) to provide support for those who have addictions, and to also speak to the community on gang-related issues," Insp. Max Waddell said before Thursday’s meeting.

WPS Chief Danny Smyth was expected to use the forum to outline a new initiative — a dedicated guns-and-gang unit — that will incorporate existing resources. However, he instead spoke about the power of community and how people who rally together can amplify their sense of security, pointing out neighbourhood watch groups.

Meanwhile, Waddell said he understands people’s apprehension, as the West End has been challenged with other incidents in the past. "Police want to reassure people where they’re living is a safe place to live," he said.

That said, there are measures police are urging residents to take on their own.

"If they can take pro-active measures, whether that be proper lightning around their home, being in constant communication with their neighbours about suspicious activity, and keeping in contact with police, they’ll be okay," Waddell said.

Police have repeatedly stressed the Sunday’s home invasion was a random crime.

At the same time, the city’s crime rates have been tied to street gangs and addictions, fuelled by the meth crisis and the chaotic psychosis that can accompany it.

"When someone is high on methamphetamine... their ability to reason is limited. Their ability to control their actions is limited," Waddell said.

"I’ve spoken to meth addicts myself, and how they best describe it is, what you or I would see is not what they see... They believe others are trying to attack them. You and I may just see a human being standing (there) but to them it’s a human being standing there with a knife or a firearm, some form of violence attached to it. That’s why they react the way they do."

Police have not said the suspect in Sunday’s homicide was high on meth, nor are they providing information about the ongoing investigation.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca