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This article was published 26/4/2019 (440 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The federal government is boosting efforts to suppress gun and gang violence in Manitoba.
In an announcement in Winnipeg on Friday, Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair said the province would receive $2.3 million in new money over the next two years for a variety of initiatives, including improved intelligence gathering and information sharing among police services.
More than half of the money — $1.3 million — will go to the Winnipeg Police Service guns and gangs initiatives, which focus on identification, arrests and dismantling of gangs.
About $700,000 will also be used to develop a new police database that will enhance the collection and dissemination of illicit firearm and gang intelligence, and improve information sharing within the province.
As well, $172,000 will go to purchase specialized equipment for the Manitoba First Nations Police Service, as well as for gang intelligence and awareness training for other police agencies outside of Winnipeg. A further $80,000 will be used to expand community mobilization programs, while other funds will be used to help members get out of gangs and to support specialized training for Crown attorneys in the prosecution of organized crime and firearms offences.
According to Statistics Canada, Manitoba had the highest homicide and gang-related homicide rates among all provinces in 2017, as well as the third-highest firearms-related homicide rate.
In 2016, there were eight more firearms-related homicides in Manitoba than in the previous year. The number of gang-related homicides grew by five.
Last year, the WPS street crime unit alone arrested 411 people, seized more than $2.4 million worth of illicit drugs, more than $1 million in cash and 144 weapons, including knives, firearms and explosives. Of the 411 arrested, 161 were known gang members or associates, Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said.
The new funding is from a five-year $327.6-million federal program aimed at suppressing gun and gang violence. Of that total, $214 million is flowing to provinces and territories and $13 million will be spent in Manitoba.
Initiatives are being tailored to reflect the needs of each province, federal officials said.
"Our government has been working very closely with the province of Manitoba in determining how these monies can most appropriately and effectively be spent to improve public safety and reduce the incidence of gun violence," said Blair, a former Toronto police chief.
Cullen called Winnipeg the "nexus" of gun and gang activity, but noted that organized-crime groups are active throughout the province.
"They are largely responsible for the spread of meth, which is hurting individuals and families in all of our communities across Manitoba," he said.
Cullen welcomed the federal money and said the province would soon be announcing details of a $2.3-million budget allocation of its own to combat the illicit drug trade.
Meanwhile, Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth, who attended Friday’s announcement at the legislative building along with Manitoba’s top Mountie, Jane MacLatchy, said the federal money going to the force will be used to improve investigators’ ability to understand where guns are sourced and to gather and analyze intelligence about criminal organizations. Some of the money will be used to acquire new equipment and technology, he said.
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Updated on Friday, April 26, 2019 at 2:36 PM CDT: Updates headline
April 27, 2019 at 1:58 PM: final