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Manitoba government moves to strengthen rural policing

The Manitoba RCMP D Division building on Portage Avenue in Winnipeg. .
The Manitoba RCMP D Division building on Portage Avenue in Winnipeg. . Randall Paull/Global News

The Manitoba government on Tuesday announced $1.9-million in annual funding to add more Mounties across the province and bolster existing crime reduction teams and programs.

Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said the move is directly tied to rising crime worries in rural areas.

“Our government is taking action in response to concerns from rural Manitobans who no longer feel safe in their homes and communities,” said Cullen.

READ MORE: Rural crime surging in Manitoba: Stats Canada report

The money will be used to hire at least 16 more RCMP officers across the province.

Two will join the northern team, bringing the total there to six members.

Two completely new five-member teams are being created; one each in the eastern and western districts.

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As well, four officers are joining the centralized D Division Enforcement Team; which targets criminal organizations distributing guns and drugs, among many other duties.

READ MORE: Manitoba has highest homicide rate in Canada; violent crime up in both Winnipeg and Manitoba

Cullen says the money also fulfills a promise made during the election campaign to create what they call “crime reduction teams.”

“Up until now and over the past year we’ve had a pilot project with the RCMP in northern Manitoba, and we’ve had a team assembled there to focus on the serious issues, whether it be crime, or drug offences, or drug dealing, or some of those prolific offenders,” Cullen says.

“So really it’s about getting in the face of criminals, and this criminal activity, and a real strategic approach to policing.”

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In addition to front-line members, the force is also adding two crime analyst positions to study crime trends and hotspots.

Cullen says the second phase of the plan involves making tweaks to the justice system so officers are spending more time on the street doing police work, and less inside of court rooms for example.

Ralph Groening, president of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, said he feels Premier Brian Pallister’s government is serious about tackling rural crime concerns, but added members would like the province to unfreeze the funding levels of the last few years.

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READ MORE: Winnipeg delays tabling of city budget

“That is our number one ask in the election campaign that we structured a couple months ago and it continues to be the lead discussion we have had and will continue to have with the province of Manitoba,” Groening said on 680 CJOB.

“Municipalities are struggling right now.”

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Groening added Pallister’s pledge of growing the economy in his second mandate should involve removing the freeze.

“I think the premier said clearly we have to deal with the deficit, OK, we’ve done that, the next government that he is in charge of — this present government — is going to identify how can we build Manitoba,” Groening said.

READ MORE: Manitoba to spend $380 million to replace outdated radio communications systems

“I think that freeze does need to be removed, and that we come up with a formula that will allow communities to grow.”

That said, Groening believes the government’s announcement yesterday to handle the full cost of the new $380-million public safety communications system upgrades, and the $20-million yearly in maintenance, is a sign the premier wants to work with municipalities to build a stronger Manitoba.

Yesterday’s announcement also included $45-million pledge to municipalities to bolster “damage prevention and climate resiliency measures.”

Rural Manitoba residents say they’ve seen a rise in crime recently
Rural Manitoba residents say they’ve seen a rise in crime recently