COVID-19 pandemic contributing to Winnipeg’s violent crime: U of W prof

While some Manitobans have been forced from their jobs during the coronavirus crisis, police officers in our province have remained busy.

In the past 10 days, the Winnipeg Police Service has dealt with several instances of violent crime.

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While many would figure the pandemic should result in a drop in crime, University of Winnipeg criminal justice professor Michael Weinrath says it’s actually having the opposite effect.

“For people with mental health challenges, being home and isolated can be very difficult, and I think those factors may have contributed to some of those crimes.”

Weinrath says the city is in a “cycle” of violent crime, largely due to the still-growing use of methamphetamine.

A large amount of drugs was taken off the city’s streets this week, but that’s not expected to have a positive effect on crime.

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The rising price of drugs means people suffering from addiction are not giving it up, but instead looking for more ways to get that supply.

“Addiction is so very powerful that we have not seen any decrease in the amount of illicit drugs that are getting into the hands of those who are a) trafficking it, and b) using it,” says WPS Insp. Max Waddell.

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If the proceeds of crime are what fuels their addiction, more crime will be committed to fill that need.

“Over the past couple of years we’ve had crystal meth assaults, where people are high and very difficult to restrain,” explains Weinrath.

That’s what he believes to be the cause behind an incident on Monday that injured two officers, sending one to hospital.

“It’s pretty remarkable. This fellow was very difficult to take down.”

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Eight officers were needed to subdue the man, who was banging on the windows of a Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service station.

“People should give some credit to the police,” says Weinrath. “We’re sometimes quick to be suspicious when we hear about shootings and violence, but the officers in this particular case did everything they could to avoid using deadly force.”

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All of this comes as the city’s homicide total stands at 14 — just off the pace from 2019, Winnipeg’s deadliest year in history.

Weinrath says while the pandemic hasn’t done much to slow down aggravated assaults and murders, it’s not necessarily contributing to those types of crimes.

“If you look at the homicides this year, they’re very much like the ones [from 2019]. They involve people in poor areas, likely the drug trade, gangs and individuals with addictions issues.”

–With files from Shane Gibson

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