Manitoba hospitals consider boosting security after meth-related violence
CTVNews.ca Staff, with a report from Manitoba Bureau Chief Jill Macyshon
Published Monday, March 11, 2019 6:16PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, March 11, 2019 10:00PM EDT
Winnipeg’s spike in meth-related violence is prompting the Manitoba government to consider new powers for hospitals security staff, and review all security at health-care facilities.
The high number of people committing meth-related crimes in Winnipeg is linked to an increase in addiction rates, police said. The crimes are often violent in nature.
Police say six out of the last seven homicides in the city can be attributed to methamphetamine.
The most recent case involved a home invader who allegedly killed 17-year-old high school student Jamie Adao, who had tried to fight his attacker off.
The attack was random and the suspect was possibly spurred by meth, Winnipeg police chief Danny Smyth told reporters.
In another case, police stopped a man driving a stolen car -- involved in a home invasion -- and who had a machete and meth in the vehicle.
Last week, more than 100 people from the affected neighbourhoods voiced their anger at a public forum held by the Winnipeg Police Service.
“You’re not safe anymore,” one speaker said, echoing the sentiment of many attendees. But Insp. Max Waddell from the police’s organized crime unit acknowledged that their officers “can't do this alone.”
“We need to work together as a community if we are going to deal with these tough issues,” he told CTV Winnipeg.
CHEAP COST OF METH, LACK OF RESOURCES DRIVES PROBLEM
A large factor driving Winnipeg’s meth addiction is the cheap cost of the drug.
For approximately $10, users can buy enough meth to get them high for 12 hours. And prolonged use of the drug can result in psychosis and spark outbursts of violence.
The other key aspect driving the meth problem is the lack of resources to deal with a growing number of addicts.
In the city’s hospitals, meth-related visits have jumped by 1,200 per cent in the past five years. Because of the spike of meth-related crimes, the Manitoba government is now reviewing security at health-care facilities.
Health Minister Cameron Friesen said a review is long overdue because there aren’t any province-wide guidelines. Manitoba is also considering new legislation to give greater powers to security workers at hospitals and other public facilities.
Manitoba’s Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said he expects security officers will be given the power to detain people without being armed. This would be similar to the powers given to peace officers and would require hospital staff to have additional training.
“We want to ensure that public safety is paramount, and that's why we want to make sure that we have individuals with the authority necessary … to deal with those respective situations," Cullen told The Canadian Press.
Facilities that help addicts are also calling on the provincial government to do more.
Marion Willis, who runs a local homeless shelter, called the meth problem an “absolute epidemic.” She also described it as a “beast” unlike opioids and alcohol.
She said the city desperately needs a drug stabilization unit specifically for meth addicts.
A city task force will make recommendations to combat the meth crisis, but a full report is not expected until June.
With files from The Canadian Press