With three homicides over the weekend, Winnipeg is on pace to more than double its homicide rate for 2019. In the first five months of this year, there have already been 19 people slain, compared to 22 total in 2018.
At this time last year, the city had recorded eight homicide deaths, Winnipeg police spokeswoman Const. Tammy Skrabek said Monday.
The city's homicide rate could surpass 2011, the worst year in recent memory, when 41 people were killed in the city.
The 19th happened Sunday night. Police received a report of several people fighting in the 300 block of Alfred Avenue at about 9:20 p.m. One of them had serious injuries and was transported to hospital in critical condition. He died as a result of his injuries, police said in a press release Monday.
A portion of Alfred Avenue between Salter and Aikins streets was cordoned off Monday. Cruiser cars blocked each end of an eight-house stretch on both sides of Alfred in the 300 block near Salter. A neighbour whose home is outside the yellow police tape heard that a boy was shot.
Homicide investigators are asking anyone with information to call 204-986-6219 or Crime Stoppers at 204-786-TIPS (8477). Police were not releasing the identify of the victim Monday, Skrabek said.
On Saturday at about 2:45 a.m., police were called to a home in the 400 block of Simcoe Street. Shaylnne Marie Hunter, a 25-year-old from Winnipeg, had been stabbed and later died in hospital.
Her slaying marked the city's 18th homicide, a number not reached until early November last year.
On Friday, police found the body of a man in a Greencrest Avenue residence in Fort Richmond at around 5:20 p.m., after receiving a report of "suspicious circumstances." Investigators declared the death to be a homicide. Police were not identifying the victim in that case either, Skrabek said.
The reason for the sharp rise in homicides isn't easy to pin down, one local expert said.
"People are talking about the correlation between meth and homicide and guns and gangs and homicide," said University of Winnipeg criminologist Katharina Maier.
"These could partly be factors but not 'the' factor," said the assistant professor with a law degree from the University of Münster (Germany) and a doctorate from the Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies at the University of Toronto.
"It's too simplistic to narrow it down to one factor. And, when we compare it to other cities, it's actually quite normal; homicide rates and violent crime fluctuate. That's not uncommon."
Nevertheless she said the increase "is definitely of concern," but panic is not the answer.
"They're all different," she said. "Sometimes alcohol is involved."
The professor lives in Southdale, where the March 26 homicide of Lise Danais, 51, remains unsolved. Police said Danais died after a serious physical assault. Her slaying was Winnipeg's 11th of the year.
People want to look for correlations and links, she said.
"Then it's easier to construct a solution, but we can't do that," she said, adding the root causes of violent crime should be addressed.
Mayor Brian Bowman said it's important to remember that the number represents lives lost.
"Any loss of life is obviously terrible news and regrettable for the families that are affected and for our community," he said. "Let’s keep in mind that when we’re talking about these numbers, we’re talking about Winnipeggers."
He said supports are needed for people struggling with addictions and mental-health issues, and that could include controversial supervised injection sites.
"We’ve been making the call publicly to combat the meth crisis which we and other cities are in the grip of right now," Bowman said, adding the illicit-drug strategy being implemented by Winnipeg police is showing results.
"We’ve been taking steps as a council to not only increase the financial support to the Winnipeg Police Service to historic levels, but also to look for opportunities where we can support community stakeholders that are operating mental-health and addictions support," he said.
"We shouldn’t be ruling out supporting efforts that are being demanded by front-line stakeholders, and that includes supervised consumption sites. I don’t think we should be ruling anything out based on ideology."
— With files from Ryan Thorpe
Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.