June 18th, 2024

Manitoba promises new money for Winnipeg police to target assaults and retail thefts

By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press on May 29, 2024.

Minister of Families Nahanni Fontaine and Minister of Justice and Attorney General Matt Wiebe attend a press conference announcing the arrest of Kevin Charles Queau in the 2007 murder of Crystal Saunders at the Manitoba RCMP headquarters in Winnipeg, Monday, Jan. 29, 2024. Wiebe says the province will fund overtime for four police units to target "hot spots" such as retail stores, restaurants and community organizations including churches. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Lipnowski

WINNIPEG – The Manitoba government promised new money Wednesday to fight a spike in violence and retail theft that has seen workers in some cases assaulted and injured.

The province will fund overtime pay for four police units with the Winnipeg Police Service to target “hot spots” such as retail stores and restaurants, Justice Minister Matt Wiebe said.

“We’ve heard just recently from a number of groups – like retailers, like restaurants – who are saying there’s immediate need in their establishments, in their communities.” Wiebe told reporters.

Wiebe was unable to provide a dollar amount or specify how many hours of overtime the province will fund. Details will be worked out with the police force, he said, but the funding will flow very soon.

Winnipeg has seen a series of high-profile incidents at retail outlets in recent weeks, including a case where three workers at a family-run grocery store were assaulted and injured.

The grocery store has been the scene of a few confrontations since last month, when a suspected shoplifter was allegedly punched. Last week, two vehicles, including one belonging to the store’s co-owner, were set on fire.

Elsewhere in the city, a convenience store was robbed two weeks ago and the suspect discharged bear spray against a worker and two customers. A woman was assaulted during a carjacking in afternoon rush hour downtown.

“Right now, we have too many violent incidents. We have too much retail crime going on,” Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham said Wednesday.

Gillingham said he appreciates the provincial funding and said the city police force will put together a plan to move quickly.

The Opposition Progressive Conservatives said the extra money for overtime won’t go far in addressing the issue because police forces are short-staffed and officers are already working a lot.

“Adding more overtime is going to further burn out police officers. It’s going to further cause stress,” Wayne Balcaen, Tory justice critic and a former police chief in Brandon, Man., said

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 29, 2024

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