Justice minister: Province addressing crime in rural and Northern Manitoba

The government of Manitoba recognizes that crime rates are too high in our province, and improving public safety is among our highest priorities. That is why we are expanding resources, implementing new initiatives, and reducing extraneous demands on police so that they can focus on core policing work, all to reduce the crime rates in Manitoba.

We know that community participation is critical in addressing the root causes of crime, and we have made targeted investments in community mobilization initiatives across the province in order to address at-risk individuals. We are working to guide young Manitobans away from a life of crime and reduce the number of repeat offenders throughout our province. 

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Our government is currently examining legislative changes to better combat crime in rural and remote areas. A public feedback survey is running on engagemb.ca, and we would welcome your feedback on this very important issue.  

We are increasing funding for Crime Stoppers and the Citizens on Patrol Program, supporting joint force operations to crack down on crime, enhancing training and joint force initiatives to reduce the flow of illicit drugs into Manitoba. Manitoba Justice is developing a new Provincial Intelligence Model that will streamline information-sharing and coordinate efforts between law enforcement agencies to reduce and prevent crime. 

We understand that rural and northern communities need appropriate resources to combat crime. We are investing $1.9 million to expand RCMP Crime Reduction Enforcement Support Teams. This funding went towards the creation of teams in both the eastern and western Manitoba RCMP districts to target “hot spots” of rural crime. Two additional officers were added to the existing teams in Northern Manitoba and at D Division where the program was first piloted. These teams have been involved in dozens of investigations over the last several months, which have led to criminal charges against 43 people and the seizure of large quantities of illicit drugs, cash and firearms. More than 20 stolen vehicles have also been recovered and, wherever possible, returned to their owners.

Not every problem requires a front-line police response, and we recognize that other trained professionals often better address mental health and substance abuse challenges. By getting people the help they need, police resources are made more available to focus on apprehending serious and violent offenders. 

To support these efforts, we recently invested more than $450,000 to expand and maintain the use of HealthIM. HealthIM is an evidence-based risk assessment tool that helps police determine the most appropriate response when assisting a person in crisis. The tool also helps law enforcement co-ordinate with health professionals to reduce wait times and resolve mental health calls. With this investment, Manitoba will be the first province in Canada to expand this tool province-wide. This is on top of numerous provincial investments in mental health and addictions supports, totalling more than $40 million in the last 11 months alone.

Reducing rural crime requires a multi-faceted approach. That is why our government is undertaking a review of our existing legislative framework to see what enhancements can be made to address rural crime. The legislation under review includes trespass legislation, The Occupiers Liability Act, biosecurity-related legislation, and a potential new framework to address the theft of precious metals. We want to hear from Manitobans on these issues and have created a public feedback survey on engagemb.ca with a detailed questionnaire specific to rural crime. 

The survey is now up and will run until Oct. 31, and I sincerely hope you will take a few moments to share your experiences and ideas on how to combat rural crime in our communities. If you cannot complete the survey, we still would like to hear your views on rural crime. Please feel free to mail or email them directly to me at minjus@leg.gov.mb.ca, or Room 104, 450 Broadway, Winnipeg MB, R3C 0V8. I look forward to reading your submissions.

Working together, we can make a difference in the lives of Manitobans.

Cliff Cullen is Manitoba’s justice minister.

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