News / Winnipeg

Winnipeg gang problem 'static,' as police try to curb recruitment

The Winnipeg Police Service, Manitoba’s Crime Prevention branch and Winnipeg Crime Stoppers launched a new anti-gang campaign this week.

Metro File

It’s easy to forget for some Winnipeggers, hard to ignore for others, but for most the frequent intersection of drug trafficking and violent crime is a stark reminder: the city has a gang problem.

Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) Insp. Max Waddell said it’s not a growing problem, but “it’s not minimizing either.”

“I would say that currently, right now, the gang landscape is very static,” Waddell said. “While we’ve seen trends of violent crimes reducing, we still do see gang-related activity in the city.”

The aforementioned collision of drugs and violence is one obvious instance of that gang-related activity.

Waddell said people are normally safe in assuming that “when drug traffickers are involved in any violent crime, there is usually a gang behind the scenes that are driving the action.”

But he also clarifies that the gangs “almost always commit crimes amongst themselves,” and the threat more imminent to families is recruitment which Waddell and other members of the WPS organized crime unit are continually trying to counteract.

On Monday, the WPS hosted a gang awareness information session to work with social services agencies and parents in preventing young kids from joining gangs.

“The WPS has a four pillar approach for our gang strategy that includes suppression, prevention, intervention, and education,” Waddell explained.

In service of the latter two pillars, the WPS follows through with families in which a child with siblings has a gang association, and organizes outreach initiatives like Monday’s event.

The WPS, Manitoba’s Crime Prevention branch and Winnipeg Crime Stoppers also launched a new anti-gang campaign this week.

“The WPS is doing everything they can to try and prevent recruitment,” Waddell said, adding that parents and families have a role to play, too in monitoring children’s behaviour for warning signs.  

“If all of a sudden their primary focus is wearing fancy high-end clothes.. their hours of coming and going are changing… that can often be an indicator (of gang activity),” Waddell said. “If they’re out all night, as a parent you need to be concerned.”

For the most part, Waddell said recruitment is centered around areas with lower socio-economic status, and “gang members prey on young impressionable” kids from single-parent or large families who “don’t have the supports at home.”

But that’s by no means a hard-and-fast rule or an exhaustive recruitment pool.

“You can also come from a very influential wealthy family and see the same thing can happen,” Waddell said.

He recommends all parents take stock and have a frank conversation with their kids about the risk of gang recruitment.

“It really boils down to communication—every parent has to communicate with their child and provide them with that support,” he said.

Have gang-related info?

AS part of the newly launched campaign with the WPS, Crime stoppers will be paying double rewards for information on gang members in possession of guns.

If you have information to share and wish to do so anonymously, Crime Stoppers has three options:

§  By phone at 204-786-TIPS (8477)

§  Online at WinnipegCrimeStoppers.com

§  By texting CRIMES (27437) “TIP 170 (=your message)”

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