Devon Chercoe is currently on bail getting support at Morberg House as he works to grow from a previous meth addiction.
He has had several stints in jail – committing crimes to fuel his addiction – but he finally feels like his life is turning around.
While the 31-year-old works to start the next chapter of his life, he knows drugs are a big reason for crime in Winnipeg.
“There’s guns because people need to protect themselves,” he said. “I see a lot of showboating just to prove that you have that power. If you’re selling drugs and someone can push you down and take your drugs, you’re not going to do very well.”
Statistics Canada released its latest crime severity index – which measures the volume of crime per 100,000 people. Canada’s index climbed by four per cent from 2021 to 2022, but when looking at the breakdown across the country, Manitoba has a 14 per cent difference compared to 2021 – tops in the country – and Winnipeg is tied with Gatineau, Que. for the highest jump at 20 per cent.
Community advocate Sel Burrows said it is shocking seeing the number of violent crimes in the city, especially among youth.
“We have an inner city area that has a very, very high crime rate and the rest of Winnipeg is really relatively safe,” said Burrows.
“The violent crime is very, very serious. And part of it is we’re getting lots of what I call, ‘ganglets.’ Small groups of kids get together, they run into a situation, they’re carrying knives, some of them are carrying guns and people get shot, people get knifed.”
The crime severity index showed Manitoba’s violent and non-violent crimes contributed equally to the province’s overall crime index increase. Canada’s violent crime rate rose by two per cent.
Burrows agreed with Chercoe that addiction is one of the issues driving crime, but he also thinks a large part of the population is being ignored.
“The issue of the alienation of a huge part of our population who just don’t feel it gives a damn about them. And they have sort of given up on what we could call a normal positive life and have bought into a normal, negative lifestyle.”
Michelle Wesley, the outreach coordinator with St. Boniface Street Links, feels enough is not being done to help those in need, saying she thinks the drug problem is almost worse than the crime in the city.
“There’s not enough focus at all on addiction. There’s not enough treatments, there’s not enough RAM clinics. People are looked upon as outcasts,” said Wesley.
She wants to see more long-term recovery supports in place, saying 28 days is not enough time to recover from an addiction. Looking at her own life, she said it took 18 months for her to go through drug treatment.
“You have to kind of learn to almost relive again because you get so used to living in a certain way.”
HOW TO FIX THE PROBLEM?
Wesley wants to see more wraparound support provided to people who are trying to turn their lives around.
She said a lot of work goes into getting people to the point of being able to live on their own, but the support can’t end there.
“Once we get them housed, we want to keep them housed and to be able to keep them housed, they got to have the proper wraparound services, right? Some people have health issues, people need to get to RAM clinics on a day-to-day basis for the methadone. There’s a lot of things that come along with housing somebody that’s caught in addiction.”
Burrows thinks more resources are needed but Winnipeg needs to be tougher on crime as well.
“But we also need what I call, eyes on the street. We need the average citizen to be able to identify things that are starting, things that are getting together before the crime is committed,” said Burrows. “It’s great to have the police arrest somebody after they’ve committed a crime and that’s very important. But boy, I would much rather have the person who’s likely to commit that crime arrested or into a social program before they commit that murder or that serious crime.”
He wants the current services to be able to change with the times to be more efficient, but he thinks the police need to be more efficient as well.
In a statement to CTV News Winnipeg, a spokesperson from Manitoba Justice said the province is taking action to address violent crime across Manitoba.
“Manitoba has witnessed and continues to experience a distressing trend of repeated and prolific offenders. Adopting an integrated approach to addressing all aspects of this challenge, Manitoba has, and will continue to, invest in the employment of sophisticated criminal intelligence techniques to target and closely monitor high-risk individuals with arrest warrants, involvement in gangs, drug trafficking, or illegal firearms smuggling, as well as ties to organized crime,” the spokesperson said.
-With files from CTV’s Jill Macyshon
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