‘Same factors’: defence lawyer says drugs, poverty behind Winnipeg crime rate

FILE PHOTO: Police car sirens. Global News

A Winnipeg defence lawyer says that although the city’s crime rate is not far off the five-year average, Winnipeggers are — unfortunately — beginning to get used to it again after a lull due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s kind of like mosquitoes,” Scott Newman told 680 CJOB.

“We just had three years of a drought and I could sit in my backyard not bothered by mosquitoes, and it was great … and now we have a regular, rainy year where all the mosquitoes are out, and I forgot how bad it could be.”

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Winnipeg’s crime rate has been a topic of conversation after a number of high-profile incidents in recent weeks, including a Canada Day stabbing at The Forks that put a Ukrainian refugee in the hospital.

Winnipeg police chief Danny Smyth has been criticized for his comments on the crime situation, with community activists describing him as “normalizing violence” in the city.

Read more: Police chief’s comments are normalizing violence: Winnipeg community activist

Newman said to truly come up with a solution to Winnipeg’s crime problem, a different approach needs to be taken.

“We know what the problems are for people that are criminally involved and it’s the same criminogenic factors you see all over the world.

“We’ve got a drug problem in this city and we don’t do enough to make it easy for people who want to get out of a drug-addicted lifestyle. If somebody says, ‘I want to go to rehab tomorrow,’ we should have a place ready for them. … We know the waiting lists are months. If someone goes to the hospital, they send them home with a pamphlet,” he said.

“We don’t put enough resources into supporting those individuals that are at risk of tipping into criminal activity and behaviour.”

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It’s easy, he said, for crime to be painted as an ‘us vs. them’ situation, when the vast majority of criminals are struggling with root conditions like drug addiction and poverty.

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Chief’s violent crime comments criticized

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