Manitoba RCMP are implementing a new strategy to combat violent crime in rural areas, which Mounties say is often driven by gangs and repeat offenders.
“Violent crime in some of our rural and remote communities in Manitoba is escalating to levels that are very concerning to the RCMP,” D Division Supt. Scott McMurchy, acting officer in charge of criminal operations, said at a news conference Friday.
He said the goal is to address crime hot spots.
Mounties developed the new task force, dubbed the strategic enforcement response team, with input from rural and remote community leaders, McMurchy said.
The targeted strategy relies on detachment-level officers to gather data on crime and offenders in their communities, which is then examined by RCMP analysts who look for patterns in areas seeing spikes in violence. The analysts also review offenders and their potential gang affiliations and ties to provincial or interprovincial criminal networks to look for what and who are behind the spikes.
Then major crimes investigators collect additional intelligence and seek search warrants, before RCMP brass assemble a team of additional officers — from units such as major crime, emergency response, dog services, crime reduction and traffic and air services — to go execute search warrants, enforce outstanding arrest warrants and run compliance checks on people out on court conditions.
The ad-hoc team deployed for the first time to Moose Lake in July.
The northern Manitoba community of about 1,200 had seen a spike in violence, including homicides, firearms calls and gang activity, RCMP said.
RCMP said gangs, including from The Pas and Opaskwayak Cree Nation, were known to transport drugs to and from the community.
From July 20 to 22, officers from across the province, as well as Manitoba First Nations Police Service in Opaskwayak, executed warrants and checked offenders with court-imposed conditions.
On July 20, officers raided a home in Moose Lake, where they arrested Agel Awak Agnek, a 21-year-old man from Winnipeg, and a 16-year-old boy from Calgary. The pair were charged with cocaine trafficking and possession of the proceeds of crime under $5,000.
Officers executing another warrant nearby seized a crossbow and ammunition, then seized a gun from another location.
Officers also conducted checks on 75 people out on conditions or with arrest warrants, arresting seven for failing to comply with conditions and two for outstanding warrants.
RCMP are now in the planning stages to use the new team to address crime in other rural and remote communities.
McMurchy said the plan is to work in conjunction with communities seeing spikes of violence when applying the strategy.
“The intent is to have employees from our community Indigenous policing services reach out to community leaders during these deployments and see what tools and services they may require from the RCMP to assist them in stemming violence,” the superintendent said.
Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen applauded the move, saying violence is a significant issue in Manitoba.
“Offenders travelling between major urban centres and rural Manitoba can only be stopped with this level of collaboration and co-operation — this is one example of how we’re taking a provincial focus to address violent criminals,” Goertzen told reporters Friday.
Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.