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'Tired and frustrated': Winnipeg police chief unsure if gov't committed to meth crisis fix

Last Updated Jul 17, 2019 at 5:52 pm MST

WINNIPEG – In a weekly newsletter to the Winnipeg Police Service, the city’s top cop says it’s hard to tell if governments at all levels are committed to getting a handle on the growing meth crisis–and resulting crime–in the city.

Police Chief Danny Smyth says officers are facing burdensome workloads and are coming in on days off to help with major crime scenes.

“I am tired and frustrated by what I see going on around us,” Smyth writes in the newsletter.

“I ran into members of the Homicide Unit today. They’ve been here since Saturday working on the 25th homicide of the year… I see a Forensics Unit that’s being run off its feet… I’ve noticed the increased number of high risk and critical incidents that our Tactical Team is involved in,” the letter reads.

Smyth says he worries that the current pace of work will lead to burnout, and he asks members to be alert for signs of stress.

“Our community relies on you to keep them safe… Please take care of each other. When people are tired and frustrated they are vulnerable. Be alert for negative signs of stress.”

The police chief says he will continue to both press government to take action and advocate for the community.

“I have said consistently that this is not a problem that policing can resolve alone. This is a health problem. We can enforce the laws and we can intervene to help people recover from trauma and stress, but we need to be able to divert people to the help they need to recover. We know there are not enough shelters, stabilization units, and treatment centres to help those struggling with addiction.”

While Smyth continues to press the government for support, he urges his team to “hang in there” and “never give up”.

Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen says police chiefs and RCMP from across the province are to meet this week to discuss solutions.

The Addictions Foundation of Manitoba has said meth use has increased by more than 100 per cent in adults and nearly 50 per cent in youth since 2014.

-with files from Stefanie Lasuik, the Canadian Press