Dealing with theft, violence and property crime: Meth is a main election issue in Manitoba

Click to play video 'Property crime, theft, violence: Meth is a main election issue, say Manitobans' Property crime, theft, violence: Meth is a main election issue, say Manitobans
Local business owners, property owners and citizens say they're waiting for politicians to deal with the meth crisis in a meaningful way. – Sep 3, 2019

Manitobans who have been victims of property crime say they are fed up with having their personal belongings stolen and hope the politicians running in the province’s 2019 election, and those running in the upcoming federal election, will come up with a solution.

David Holubowich, owner of Avenue Construction, said there are sometimes multiple thefts a week at his complex in West St. Paul.

“Every day it keeps getting worse and worse,” he said.

Holubowich, who believes Manitoba’s meth crisis is to blame, said copper wire, scrap metal, batteries and fuel are targeted most.

READ MORE: Winnipeg among the cheapest cities to buy meth

His biggest loss came earlier in the month when someone stole an excavator and trailer worth a combined $200,000 from his property.

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Holubowich has already installed several security cameras but is now looking for more ways to secure his property.

“I have to put fencing around the complex and a gate and people are going to feel like they’re in prison and it shouldn’t be like that,” he said. “Something needs to be done and done soon.”

Dave Penner, the sales manager at Insight Service Solutions, said the Winnipeg-based cleaning company is still facing thefts despite having cameras and a fence surrounding its compound.

While company vehicles get broken into, Penner said thieves mainly target ladders.

“Our most expensive ladder that was ever stolen was a 44-foot ladder,” Penner said. “It was probably worth $1,500 or something like that and if they bring it to a scrap yard they’re going to get maybe $20 for it.”

Dean Love is the owner of Catch It on Camera and he says business is up — way up. Global News

Dean Love, owner of Catch It On Camera, has been installing security cameras in Manitoba since 2009. He said business is currently at an all-time high.

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“In the last two years, we’ve seen a marked increase in property crime to the point where I’ve had to focus specifically on commercial clients,” Love said. “I’ve been turning down residential business now for probably the last 18 months.”

Love said many of his clients are victims of petty theft.

“Anything that could be turned over for a quick dollar,” he said.

Property crime in residential neighbourhoods appears to be spiking as well.

READ MORE: ‘Meth camps’ showing up in city parks, says Winnipeg homeless advocate

Daniel Desjardins, a Windsor Park resident, said his typically quiet neighbourhood has turned into a hot spot for crime late at night.

“I’d say within the last year or so it’s gotten a lot worse,” he said. “It’s not big crimes but it’s more just little stuff to inconvenience everybody.”

Desjardins said he has had some loose change and other personal items stolen from his vehicle. Based on local Facebook groups and chats with his neighbours, he believes people are checking cars on a nightly basis on various streets.

“You come out in the morning and hopefully your car hasn’t been gone through.”

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The Winnipeg Police Service’s annual statistical report released in July showed property crimes were up 19 per cent in 2018 compared to 2017, and 44 per cent higher than the five-year average.

Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth said the exploding meth problem is contributing to the rising numbers and it’s not showing any sign of slowing down in 2019.

READ MORE: Winnipeg police chief urges officers to ‘hang in there’ amidst elevated calls for service

The WPS has said several times this year that call volumes are up and property crime, likely related to the meth crisis, spiked dramatically in the first months of this year compared to last.

At times, hundreds of 911 calls have been stuck waiting in a queue for dispatch.

In an internal memo to officers this summer, Smyth urged officers to “please hang in there” as they deal with the drug crisis.

Campaign promises

The Progressive Conservative Party promises to launch a three-point plan to address meth and other drugs, including a new sobering facility, new recovery and drop-in centres, a new Rapid Access to Addictions Medicine clinic and more supportive recovery housing units.

The PCs also promise to spend $10 million to reduce crime in downtown Winnipeg and to create 12 new treatment and waiting spaces for people with a meth addiction.

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READ MORE: Tory election platform includes attack on meth crisis

The New Democratic Party says it will expand services at the Main Street Project within the first 100 days of being elected to help battle the meth crisis.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew says he will open a safe consumption site for drugs, expand addictions treatment programs and establish a meth intervention program in Winnipeg. He said it would cost $3.5 million a year and reduce the number of used needles found around the city.

READ MORE: Safe consumption site among addictions promises from Manitoba NDP

The Liberals unveiled their meth and addictions plan on July 19, which includes drug stabilization units, extending recovery time in public beds and more transitional housing for addicts.

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont also says his party will open a virtual addictions co-ordination centre if elected. Lamont said people would access the centre, which would cost between $2 and $3 million a year, by phone or online so they can get addictions help when they need it.

READ MORE: Manitoba Liberals would open virtual addictions centre to deal with meth crisis

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At the federal level, no specific promises have been made as the campaign for the expected Oct. 21 election has yet to begin, but Manitoba MP Robert Falcon Oullette has called in the past for a joint response from all levels of government on meth.