Winnipeg Crime Stoppers doubles reward for meth tips to fight 'crisis'

WINNIPEG — Officials with Crime Stoppers in Winnipeg say methamphetamine has become such a crisis that the group is temporarily doubling its cash rewards for information solving crimes related to the street drug.

"Crime Stoppers recognizes Winnipeg is currently experiencing a major crisis associated to crimes related to the use of meth on our streets," said Paul Johnson, the group's chairman.

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"Meth users often experience a state of confusion and anxiety that can easily translate into an increase in violence."

While opioid use has risen dramatically in other areas of Canada, crystal meth has become the fastest-rising drug of choice in Manitoba. It is cheap, relatively easy to produce, and gives users a high that can last for many hours.

The Addictions Foundation of Manitoba recently said meth use has increased by more than 100 per cent in adults and nearly 50 per cent in youth since 2014. The province’s chief medical examiner says meth was involved in 35 overdose deaths in 2017, up from 19 the year before.

Insp. Max Waddell, with the Winnipeg Police Service organized crime unit, said meth use had led to a host of problems.

"Just a few of the major concerns ... include increased theft and violent crime, higher rates of hepatitis C, stroke and psychosis, higher death toll," he said Tuesday.

Crime Stoppers typically offers rewards of up to $1,000 for information leading to arrests for crimes, but is doubling that amount to $2,000 for meth-related offences until the end of February.

The agency made a similar offer for fentanyl-related crimes a year ago and saw the number of incoming tips jump by about 50 per cent, Johnson said.

Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen has promised to increase treatment beds for meth addicts but has so far resisted calls from the NDP Opposition for a safe consumption site.

The province, Winnipeg city hall and the federal government have teamed up to create a task force to recommend ways to fight meth consumption. Its final report is expected in June.

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