Manitoba RCMP have developed a new, data-driven strategy to address spikes in violent crime in rural and remote communities, and it’s already resulted in several arrests, Supt. Scott McMurchy says.
The new approach comes as rates of violent crime in some rural and remote communities in the province have escalated to “very concerning” levels, McMurchy said at a news conference Friday, adding that some of those rates are higher than in major centres such as Winnipeg.
“Very often, these crimes are being driven by a core group of prolific offenders and members of street gangs,” McMurchy, acting officer in charge of criminal operations for the Manitoba RCMP, told reporters.
“While the RCMP will always be there to respond to criminal activity, it is apparent that a more targeted, strategic and data-driven approach is required.”
The result is the strategic enforcement response team, which is assembled with new people each time it’s needed. It works in two phases in communities identified as hot spots for crime, he said.
Very often, these crimes are being driven by a core group of prolific offenders and members of street gangs. While the RCMP will always be there to respond to criminal activity, it is apparent that a more targeted, strategic and data-driven approach is required.– Manitboa RCMP Supt. Scott McMurchy
First, Mounties collect and analyze information on crime and offenders they get from front-line officers. The data is then used to create an enforcement plan that draws on resources from across the province, McMurchy said.
The analysis phase looks for patterns in the community, reviews offenders’ potential gang affiliations and ties to other criminal networks, and sees police seek search warrants.
The enforcement phase pulls officers and resources to make sure local police have what they need to execute the search warrants, arrest suspects and do compliance checks on people with court-imposed conditions.
Deployed in Moose Lake
The new team was first deployed last month in Moose Lake in response to a spike in violent crime, homicide, firearm calls and gang activity in the northern community of about 1,200, where RCMP believed gangs were moving drugs, McMurchy said.
The most recent crime data from Statistics Canada shows the rate of violent crimes committed in Manitoba per 100,000 people went up slightly between 2020 and 2021, rising to 2,266 from 2,112.
From July 20 to 22, officers from the RCMP and the Manitoba First Nations Police Service worked together to execute search and arrest warrants, and do compliance checks in the Moose Lake area, McMurchy said.
The effort netted two arrests — a 21-year-old man from Winnipeg and a 16-year-old boy from Calgary — after a house on Birch Street in Moose Lake was raided. Both were charged with trafficking cocaine and possessing the proceeds of crime under $5,000, RCMP said in a news release.
Another search warrant was also executed at a home on Kisitigan Road, where a crossbow and ammunition were seized. Information from that residence also led to a gun being seized, the release says.
Mounties also did 75 checks on people with court-imposed conditions or warrants for their arrests, which led to seven people being charged with breaching their conditions and two being arrested for outstanding warrants.
Plans are also underway to deploy the team in other communities, but McMurchy said he could not say where.
On July 24, after the Moose Lake deployment ended, RCMP also tried to stop a speeding vehicle, which they later found in Grand Rapids after its occupants ran into the nearby woods, the release said. Police found a handgun, an extended magazine and cocaine after searching the area.
Five people were later arrested and charged with drug- and firearm-related crimes in connection with that incident. Mounties said they have since determined those people have a close connection with a drug trafficking network in Moose Lake and affiliations with gangs in northern Manitoba.
‘More than welcome’: reeve
Dave Carlson, reeve of the municipality of Emerson-Franklin in southern Manitoba near the United States border, says people in his community are more concerned about property crime than violence.
And while he said there’s not a lot of crime, even slight increases in reports of things such as the theft of bikes, vehicles and equipment can put people on edge.
“It does make people feel a little less safe, the thought of someone coming on your property and stealing bigger-ticket items. It’s concerning, for sure,” Carlson said.
Crime statistics for the region are not available from Statistics Canada.
Carlson says any strategy that can help RCMP better pinpoint where crime is happening is “more than welcome,” especially when they’re tasked with covering such large parts of the province.
“They could be potentially responding to a vehicle collision in our area and then there could be a crime happening in the other end of the area,” he said, “so it’s not an easy task for them.”
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