Winnipeg’s police chief is urging his officers to “please hang in there” as they deal with what he calls a higher-than-normal call volume and a significant illicit drug crisis.
In a newsletter sent Tuesday aimed not only at officers but at local politicians, Chief Danny Smyth said he was “tired and frustrated by what I see going on around us.”
Smyth praised various units, including Homicide, Guns and Gang, Forensics, Tactical Support and General Patrol, commending their “hard work, service and professionalism,” but said he understands a higher crime rate is taking a toll on officers.
“I continue to see evidence that we are dealing with a health crisis,” he wrote. “Meth and other illicit drugs like opioids are significantly contributing to increased calls for police and paramedic service, high levels of violent crime, and increases in property crimes.
“I see other front line workers like Fire, Paramedics, and those working in the Emergency Departments of our hospitals doing the best they can with the resources they have to deal with people in medical distress or crisis as a result of overdoses and violence.”
Winnipeg has seen 25 homicides so far this year, eclipsing last year’s total of 22.
The Winnipeg Police Service has said numerous times this year that call volumes are up and property crime, likely related to the meth crisis, spiked dramatically in the first months of the year compared to 2018.
In March 2018, there were 2,509 incidents of property crime reported to police. In March of this year, there were 3,519 incidents of property crime, a rise of 40.3 per cent.
During a recent incident that saw a police cruiser stolen and taken for a joyride to Portage la Prairie, the calls for service spiked to more than 300 calls waiting for help as police dealt with that crime, said Const. Rob Carver.
Calls rose to that number again over the past weekend, said Smyth.
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“There were 264 calls waiting in the queue for dispatch when I came in this morning. That’s down from the over 300 calls that were waiting during parts of this past weekend.”
Smyth said the problem is not one police can solve alone.
“I will continue to press our governments to take action to help us. I will continue to advocate for the community. It’s just hard to tell right now if anyone in government is committed to the actions necessary to help our community recover.”
Mayor Brian Bowman’s office sent out a statement Wednesday afternoon.
“Mayor Bowman agrees with the sentiment expressed by Chief Smyth in his recent newsletter to members, as well as his recent statement to media. The Mayor is grateful for the efforts of the women and men of our Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) and the tremendous work they continue to do each day.
“Mayor Bowman agrees the challenges faced by our city is not for the police to address alone. It requires the support from other levels of government on multiple fronts. After the Illicit Drug Task Force report was released at the end of June, the Mayor tasked the public service with identifying areas of the report within municipal jurisdiction that can be operationalized immediately, and the Mayor reiterated his call for other levels of government to respond to the report’s recommendations.
“In particular, Mayor Bowman provided ongoing and unwavering support for the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre, and agrees with Chief Smyth that more addictions support is required in our city.”
Global News has reached out to Premier Brian Pallister for comment.
Read the full letter: