Crystal meth blamed for rising crime rates

Increase in robberies, thefts; rural areas hit hard

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An increase in the use of crystal methamphetamine is the main culprit behind rising crime rates in Brandon and Manitoba in general, said Brandon Police Service deputy chief Randy Lewis.

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This article was published 25/07/2018 (1597 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

An increase in the use of crystal methamphetamine is the main culprit behind rising crime rates in Brandon and Manitoba in general, said Brandon Police Service deputy chief Randy Lewis.

This comes after Winnipeg Police Service Chief Danny Smythe on Monday characterized Manitoba’s largest city as “a community in crisis” due to its high rate of meth use.

“Within Manitoba, generally speaking, we have seen that crime trends in Brandon are one to three years behind similar trends in Winnipeg,” Lewis said in a statement. “This also seems to be the case with crystal methamphetamine.”

The latest numbers from Statistics Canada released on Monday show that the national Crime Severity Index, which measures the volume and severity of police-reported crime, rose for the third consecutive year in 2017.

Manitoba’s CSI increased by three per cent, which has been attributed mainly to robbery and theft of $5,000 or less.

In Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, the rise in crime was attributed mainly due to the above-average crime rates in rural areas.

In 2017, Manitoba’s rural crime rate was 42 per cent higher than its urban crime rate; Alberta’s was 38 per cent higher, while Saskatchewan’s was 36 per cent higher.

In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, their high rural crime rates were due to increases in all types of crime, while in Alberta, the difference was largely due to a rise in property crime.

Together, the three provinces accounted for 47 per cent of Canada’s rural crime in 2017.

Last month, the BPS reported a significant increase in calls for service related to drugs and intoxication, property crimes and weapons in the city’s downtown core, between Jan. 1 and April 30 of this year.

In his statement, Lewis said rising crime rates in 2017 have carried over into 2018, with property crimes — including break and enter, theft over $5,000, theft under $5,000, possession of stolen property and fraud — increasing in general.

Prior to that, Lewis said property crimes were stable, if not decreasing, and that crystal meth users often commit property crimes in order to support their addictions.

The police board and City of Brandon have since created two new positions within the BPS: a drug investigator focused on crystal meth and trafficking and a youth intelligence officer to focus on youth exploitation, which Lewis described as “an unfortunate byproduct” given some people prey on vulnerable youth who are addicted to drugs.

Lewis said more front-line officers are needed to address the issue, which may include moving officers from support positions into front-line roles, but that officers continue to work hard to control the flow of drugs in the city.

He noted that some significant arrests and seizures of crystal meth have already been made.

“This problem can’t be solved by police alone and a concerted joint effort by social service providers is essential to seeing success in addressing the increase in drugs and addiction within Brandon and the province of Manitoba,” Lewis said.

Brandon deputy mayor Jeff Fawcett said more work needs to be done with organizations, such as Prairie Mountain Health and the Brandon Urban Aboriginal Peoples’ Council, to address drug use and crime in the city.

“We know that the police department obviously plays a large role in this, as do all of our emergency services, but they unfortunately are often the end result.”

He also pointed to Mayor Rick Chrest’s anti-drug forum for students, “NEO: Not Even Once,” which is being done in partnership with the Brandon School Division, as being a positive effort on this front.

“We need to look at it from the whole picture, not just the hammer at the end of drug use,” Fawcett said, adding that if people have a sense of belonging with their families, schools and neighbours, then they will be less likely to use drugs.

» mlee@brandonsun.com, with files from the Winnipeg Free Press

» Twitter: @mtaylorlee

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