Violent crime, youth homicides up significantly last year, annual police report says

By | July 24, 2020

Violent crime continued to rise in Winnipeg last year, when the city saw a record number of homicides — a “remarkable” number of which involved youth who were killed or killed others, the city’s police chief said.

“I want to hope that that’s an anomaly,” Winnipeg Police Service Chief Danny Smyth said at a news conference held to discuss the force’s 2019 annual report on Friday morning. “We don’t [usually] have a lot of homicides that involve children.”

Of the 44 homicides committed in Winnipeg last year, eight involved youth — marking a spike of 166.7 per cent from the number of homicides committed by youth in 2018, and a jump of 135.3 per cent from the five-year average.

Children were also among victims of homicide last year, Smyth said. Some were teenagers, like Jaime Adao, 17, who was killed during a random break-in while he was home with his grandmother, and a 14-year-old girl who was stabbed at a Halloween party

Others were even younger, like Hunter Straight-Smith, 3, who was stabbed multiple times as he slept in his home, allegedly by his mother’s on-again, off-again boyfriend, and taken off life support three days later.

“There were some pretty heartbreaking and unforgettable homicides that we experienced,” Smyth said.

Three-year old Hunter Straight-Smith was stabbed in his sleep on Oct. 30, 2019. He was taken off life support on Nov. 2. (Submitted by family)

The number of homicides last year in Winnipeg doubled from 2018, and marked a jump of 81.8 per cent from the five-year average, the report said.

Winnipeg police solved 89.2 per cent of the homicides committed last year — a decrease of 6.3 per cent from the previous year’s clearance rate, the report said. Smyth said while four of last year’s killings are still considered unsolved, he expects that could change.

“I still think some of those will end up being solved before too long,” he said.

Violent crime, firearms offences up

Winnipeg marked its 23rd homicide of the year on Thursday, after a 43-year-old man was stabbed at a Tim Hortons in southeast Winnipeg.

“This year’s been just as bad as last year in a lot of ways,” Smyth said. “We’re on pace for some horrible numbers again this year.”

Violent crimes in Winnipeg also continued to rise last year, when the city recorded nearly 11,000 — a slight increase from the previous year, and an even bigger jump from the average of the last five years.

The 10,878 violent crimes reported in Winnipeg in 2019 represented a bump of 4 per cent from 2018, and a spike of 17 per cent from the five-year average, the report said.

“The level of brazen crime we experienced is alarming,” Smyth said.

Firearms offences are also on the rise, the report said. Last year, there were 76 such offences reported in Winnipeg, marking a 38.2 per cent increase from the previous year and a 92.9 per cent increase from the five-year average. 

Thirteen of those offences were committed by youth, the report said — an increase of 116.7 per cent from 2018 and 85.7 per cent from the five-year average for youth charged with firearms offences.

“I don’t think a week goes by where we don’t arrest somebody that’s in possession of a firearm,” Smyth said.

Drug crime decreases

Property crime (which includes offences like arson, breaking and entering, theft and fraud) in the city rose even more, with 51,483 of those incidents reported in 2019. That number marks an increase of 14.8 per cent from 2018, and a jump of 47.6 per cent from the five-year average, the report said.

Smyth said roughly one-third of the thefts reported to police last year happened in Liquor Marts.

Drug crimes, meanwhile, went down in the same period. The 564 incidents in 2019 mark a decrease of 18.3 per cent from 2018, and 42.3 per cent down from the five-year average, the report said. 

The police force’s focus on targeting drug traffickers and dealers instead of drug users could be partially behind this change, Smyth said.

Other crimes (which include offences like counterfeiting, weapons violations, child pornography and disturbing the peace) went down slightly from last year — but saw an increase from the five-year average. 

There were 5,674 of those crimes reported in 2019, which marks a 0.5 per cent decrease from 2018, but a 7.5 per cent increase from the five-year average, the report said.

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