Winnipeg police believe a rise in violent assaults reported in the city’s downtown is a symptom of a much bigger issue.
Police data shows there were 1,161 assaults reported in the downtown last year, a 26 per cent increase over 2021 and a 31 per cent rise over the five-year average.
Inspector Eric Luke with the Winnipeg Police Service says alcohol and drugs, specifically methamphetamine, are often a factor.
“It’s a scourge on society right now,” Luke told 680 CJOB of meth.
“It becomes problematic for individuals in the manner in which they act — they become quite erratic often when using those particular drugs — and it just creates a dangerous situation.”
Despite the overall increase in reported assaults, the data shows the number of aggravated assaults actually fell last year.
‘It’s a poison that creates mental illness’
Mitch Bourbonniere, a community outreach worker with the Downtown Community Safety Partnership says cities across Canada are seeing rising crime rates, largely due to similar issues Winnipeg is seeing with drugs like meth.
Bourbonniere says he’s seeing the impacts of the meth crisis firsthand on those he helps.
“It’s a horrible drug, it’s a poison that creates mental illness, it creates psychosis,” he said. “People can be very unstable and dangerous to themselves and others under its influence.”
Bourbonniere said the city needs immediate treatment options for those needing help with addictions and ultimately wants to see legislation – like that in place for youth – implemented for adults encouraging them to get help.
In the meantime, Bourbonniere says dealing with the social issues that can lead to crime will take boots on the ground.
“More helpers downtown, more citizen foot patrols, more … people that are dedicated to being helpful in the downtown area,” he said.
Luke says police are planning to do more foot patrols in the area this summer and will continue to work with community organizations.
— with files from Sarah McCarthy