‘Our community is reeling’: Winnipeg police chief shuffles staffing to combat spike in violence

By | November 8, 2019

As crime surges in Winnipeg, the city’s police service is realigning several units to boost the number of officers and investigators available to deal with the ongoing problem.

“Our community is reeling, really, and our organization is reeling here. A lot of people just can’t make sense of what’s going on right now in the community,” said police Chief Danny Smyth at a news conference.

“The level of violence, the level of property crime. It’s bad. It’s alarming for all of us.”

Winnipeg’s crime statistics for 2019 are “well above” the five-year average “and our five-year averages are well above the Canadian average,” Smyth said.

“It’s clear that there’s a perception out there that overall crime has increased city-wide in the past year. I think it’s fair to say that perception is, in fact, the reality right now.”

Staffing levels will be altered in the following units: major crimes, station duty, traffic, and community relations. Officers will be reassigned to general patrol and investigative units. 

The Winnipeg Police Service identification unit was at a house on Riverton Avenue east of Stadacona Street on Friday afternoon. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Changes will also be made to district stations in city neighbourhood, with a number of communications staff being centralized in the downtown headquarters building, Smyth said.

That means the duty offices in the district stations will be closed. However, public reports can also be made via phone and online 24-hours a day, Smyth said.

The additional resources and the coordinated response of the communication centre will help alleviate the strain and increase response times, he said.

Winnipeg has had 40 homicides this year, just two away from establishing a new record. Eleven of those deaths have happened in the past 30 days, leaving police straining to deal with it all.

“This is unprecedented for us as a police service, as a city,” spokesperson Const. Rob Carver said on Tuesday.

“We are pulling in all sorts of resources in all sorts of areas. Everyone is feeling this … from [communication] centre staff to general patrol to investigators to forensic services.

“Everybody has their shoulders to the wheel and doing what they need to do.”