It’s been called a crisis, an epidemic, and an issue so large that Winnipeg police haven’t been able to grasp hold of it.
Meth use has been rampant in Winnipeg for the past few years and police believe it’s only getting worse.
“I can tell you that our crime rates are going up and I think … a significant part of that, is meth and the violence associated with meth,” Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth said.
The increase in crime rates can be blamed on meth, he said.
“We are seeing extreme behaviour, a lot more aggression, psychosis,” he said. “It is certainly putting a lot of strain on our police resources. It is putting a lot of strain on our health resources, our treatment resources our shelter resources and other public services like paramedics.”
Police said they can no longer try to fix this problem alone.
“Demand is currently placed on the Winnipeg Police Service. We cannot solve this issue by responding to every single call and expect us to arrest someone,” Inspector Max Waddell from the Organized Crime Unit said.
“When we just arrest someone unfortunately, depending on what the court system judges what the outcome is, they go to jail, they don’t get the treatment then they’re back into the community and we see this cyclical system that we’re involved in. We need people to get help so they can help themselves.”
A key shift where police are now directly reaching out to the communities that have been hit the hardest — the West End and the North End.
“(There are) two areas that crime analysis have identified for drugs, guns and gangs and this is one of them,” said Waddell. “This Sargent and Sherbrooke area.”
On Wednesday, dozens of police officers and cadets took to the streets of the West End to hand out 1,000 pamphlets to residents. It includes numbers to call in crisis, for help or to connect with community partners.
“Maybe we’ll find someone who knows someone who has a drug problem who is ready for help,” Chief Smyth said. “They’ll be information provided to them for drug referral. Maybe they know someone who is in the gang life who is ready to leave it and is tired of it and they need help exiting.”