Winnipeg police responded to more than 670,000 calls in 2021 — a year that saw violent crime rise by five per cent.
That’s according to the police service’s 2021 statistical report, released Wednesday.
The report says there were nearly 11,000 cases of violent crime in the city last year, while property crimes, which made up nearly 70 per cent of the total, were down by 11 per cent compared with 2020.
According to the report, the type of property crime most prevalent in the city has shifted, with theft of vehicle accessories (notably catalytic converters) replacing shoplifting. In 2020, shoplifting from liquor stores was a major concern across the city, something that has since been curbed by enhanced security measures at Manitoba Liquor Marts.
Gun crime was up significantly — a 27 per cent increase over a five-year period — and homicides remain high for the third consecutive year, although police say they continue to clear murder cases at a high rate.
The report comes in the wake of controversial comments from police chief Danny Smyth last week, in reference to a spate of violent downtown crime — including an incident on Canada Day at The Forks that saw a Ukrainian refugee stabbed in the neck.
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Smyth’s remarks have been criticized as “normalizing” crime in the city.
Premier Heather Stefanson reacted to the police chief’s comments on Tuesday afternoon. Stefanson is currently in Victoria for a healthcare meeting with her fellow provincial and territorial leaders.
“The recent crime activity on the streets of Winnipeg are deeply concerning,” Stefanson said in a statement.
“Let me be clear, violent attacks against innocent civilians will never be acceptable. Manitobans deserve to feel safe and protected in their community. ”
Smyth told 680 CJOB’s The Start that he doesn’t believe he was normalizing violence with his comments.
“I have never characterized criminal violence as normal. In fact, I described it as alarming, I described it as a real concern, and that we take all violent crime seriously, regardless of where it occurs in the community.
“I did say this isn’t new — I’ve been sounding the alarm on a lot of the contributing factors to this violence for several years,” the chief said.
Police have said they intend to beef up foot patrols in the area of The Forks after a series of assaults at the popular meeting spot, and announced Tuesday that 16 new closed-circuit TV cameras will be installed in the city’s downtown as part of an ongoing security program.