Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 13/9/2019 (266 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Prairies are grappling with gun violence in part because some people with licences buy up weapons from sporting good stores in bulk and resell them to others, police say.
The Winnipeg Police Service provided an update on its guns and gangs unit findings during a board meeting Friday, and officers pinpointed "straw purchasers" as a key concern in rising shooting rates. They also cited criminals involved in manufacturing homemade guns and altering long guns.
The findings are just some of what WPS has been able to achieve with the province’s $1.3 million in funding to seize more illegal weapons.
"It’s this availability of firearms on the street that’s our main catalyst in increased violence that we’re seeing in our city," WPS Inspector Max Waddell said during the Friday update.
Police expect this year’s shootings to be on par — if they don’t surpass — last year’s total. In 2018, there were a total of 94 shootings. That is about 114 per cent higher than the 2014 total.
The second quarter data shows there have been 67 shootings so far this year.
Meanwhile, police are also on track to meet or surpass last year’s total number of crime gun seizures. Between April and June, police confiscated more guns and prohibited weapons (increases of 32 and 96, respectively) than during the first quarter of 2019.
The guns and gangs funding, Waddell said, has allowed WPS to conduct more investigations and collect more data to better understand gun violence in the city. It has also allowed for more equipment purchases to reduce firearm examination backlog.
In May, the team seized 12 zip guns and dismantled a homemade gun manufacturing facility. In July, officers arrested an individual who bought four firearms for the purpose of selling them to criminals.
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WPS Police Chief Danny Smyth said Friday was the first time police could shed light on the concerning "straw purchaser" pattern.
"Locally, we haven’t seen the evidence of smuggling across the American border … What we have encountered is the thefts of the long guns and now we’ve started to see the straw purchasers," Smyth said.
Guns aside, meth seizures are expected to meet or surpass last year’s totals.
Police board chair Kevin Klein said he believes there’s a need to come up with concrete targets to tackle meth. "We never put a deadline on this. We have no milestones for this so how do we follow-up on it?"
Maggie Macintosh Reporter
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.
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Updated on Friday, September 13, 2019 at 5:57 PM CDT: Adds photo