Meth responsible for smashed windows to home invasions, says Winnipeg neighbourhood group

As part of an in-depth investigation into the city’s ongoing meth crisis, Global News / 680 CJOB journalists Richard Cloutier and Joe Scarpelli were given exclusive behind-the-scenes access to the people on the front lines in the fight against meth. This is the third of a four-part series. Read part 1 here.Read part 2 here.Story continues below

The meth crisis isn’t only affecting the drug’s users and their families.A community group is so frustrated with the rise in crime in their neighbourhood that they’re taking matters into their own hands — by working with police and other organization to form foot patrols that report suspicious behaviour.They’re hoping their presence on the streets will discourage property crime.Andrew McCrae, who runs the River Heights Smashed Window Club Facebook group, told 680 CJOB he’s seen a steady rise in property crime in his neighbourhood – much higher than than the smashed windows of parked cars that led to the initial creation of his group in 2015.“It started with smashed windows, then it started moving toward garages being broken into, and bikes being stolen has been a really big component of that,” he said.“It’s moved into home invasions, people breaking into homes trying to take stuff, and it’s also affecting convenience stores and robberies that way as well.”McCrae attributes the increase in destructive crime to meth, citing data police have shared.“Violent crime is up in the city of Winnipeg,” said Winnipeg police Insp. Max Waddell. “We believe methamphetamine is one of the primary drivers. The drug alters the state of the mind and releases high amounts of dopamine that just drives people to commit acts that they wouldn’t normally commit.“They’ll do whatever it takes to get their next hit.”READ MORE: As Winnipeg’s meth crisis grows, so does Brandon’sDespite sharing photos and information about property crime in the area, the River Heights group is discouraging any kind of vigilante activity. In fact, they’re working with police on sanctioned community foot patrols that avoid any encounters with potentially dangerous people. McCrae said neighbourhood patrols are taught to look for suspicious activity, and to contact police with the details.“Violent crime is also rising, so when these people are approached, there are potential issues now, where before, there wasn’t that problem with it,” he said.The River Heights group has always insisted the issue isn’t specific to one neighbourhood, he said. River Heights is just part of an ongoing trend across Winnipeg and, indeed, across Manitoba as a whole.Brandon police recently told Global News that Manitoba’s second-largest city is experiencing a meth crisis of its own, including a notable increase in recent arrests and a significant increase in needles disposed of by Bear Clan volunteers.“People can’t function when they’re on methamphetamine, and work and be employees, so a lot of the thefts are happening because of this,” Brandon Police Chief Wayne Balcaen said. “People look for the easy targets and ways to get articles they can resell.”WATCH: Meth Q&A: Winnipeg police talk about the surge in violent crime