TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
Manitoba Justice Minister Andrew Swan speaks during the unveiling of the Brandon Wheat Kings licence plate at the Canad Inns on Tuesday.
Don’t count out Brandon when it comes to a trio of crime programs that have had their start in Winnipeg but failed to find their way here yet.
Manitoba Justice Minister Andrew Swan didn’t supply a timeline for when the programs might arrive, but said Brandon could prove promising for expansion.
"I think, more than ever, people understand that building safer communities isn’t just about the police, it’s about involving the entire community," Swan said during a visit to the Wheat City on Tuesday. "I’m going to look forward to working with people in Brandon in the months to come."
Swan said Brandon could eventually see a drug court, mental health court, and a crime reduction program similar to initiatives in Winnipeg.
Brandon judges have lamented the lack of a local version of the mental health court that was introduced to Winnipeg in May 2012. The court diverts mentally ill offenders from the regular court system in favour of monitoring and treatment.
Brandon Police Service Chief Ian Grant has told this city’s police board that a growing portion of the force’s increasing calls for service relate to mental health.
Grant has also said he hopes that another Winnipeg-based initiative makes its way here.
The Block by Block Community Safety Initiative is a crime reduction program in Winnipeg’s North End. The $600,000, three-year pilot project was announced in November.
Police work with social agencies to connect potential offenders or victims with supports before they find themselves in trouble that requires a police response.
Also notably absent here is a drug treatment court.
Swan is already on the record as saying he’d like to expand that program to western and northern Manitoba.
The drug court allows people who are addicted to drugs and charged with non-violent or drug-related offences to plead guilty in exchange for treatment.
If an offender completes treatment and abstains from drugs, the Crown attorney will drop the charges or recommend a non-custodial sentence, depending on the severity of the original crime.
The Winnipeg Drug Treatment Court began in 2006. The province partnered with the federal government to deliver the program, and federal funding has been extended to March 31, 2015.
However, Swan continues to press Ottawa for more funding as costs rise.
"I’ve been trying to lobby the federal government to step up their support," Swan said. "I have told the justice minister that we want to have a court, not just in Winnipeg, but outside the Perimeter as well."
Brandon would be a good location for expansion, Swan said.
He said he also supports the idea behind Block by Block, but wants to make sure it’s a success before it’s expanded beyond Winnipeg. However, Brandon could be a good fit for such a program.
"I’m certain we’re going to get positive results that will allow us to expand elsewhere," Swan said.
When it comes to a mental health court, Swan said there are only a handful of graduates so far, but he expects good results.
"We’re carefully monitoring that," Swan said. "I think we’re going to get equally positive results, and I am going to want to have conversations with how we can bring that model to Brandon."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 19, 2014