Winnipeg murder rate skyrockets in 2019, criminal justice expert points to long-term solutions

2019 has been a violent year in Winnipeg.

More people — 44 — were killed in the city than ever before, doubling 2018’s homicide rate of 22.

The most recent homicide happened last Friday, police said.

This year eclipsed the previous record of 41 homicides, set in 2011. That year, five people were killed in an intentionally-set rooming house fire, police said at the time. This year, most murders have occurred one or two at a time.

READ MORE: Man found assaulted Christmas morning is Winnipeg’s 43rd homicide of the year

However, a criminal justice expert thinks high numbers this year don’t necessarily mean the new decade will start with a high murder rate.

“We have a high number of homicides this year, but it might go down again next year,” said Michael Weinrath, a University of Winnipeg criminal justice professor.

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“Last year, we had [numbers] in the low 20s. We can see some significant fluctuations from year to year.”

Weinrath pointed to social issues — poverty, inequality and addictions among them — as well as criminal issues like street gangs as leading to higher homicide rates in general.

“Investing in social programs, trying to get less kids in care, trying to help impoverished minorities establish stronger communities, those are all long-term but important goals,” Weinrath said of ways to reduce violent crime in the long term.

But in the short term, 2019’s increased murder rate will have a ripple effect through the justice system.

The Winnipeg Police Service has already reassigned officers to the major crimes unit and others to general patrol in early November to combat the increase in violent crime.

READ MORE: Violent crime spike prompts Winnipeg police to re-assign front lines; will impact public services

“From the court system, homicide trials require a significant allocation of resources,” Weinrath said. “They’re significantly long trials so it can end up backing up the court system.”

The correctional system will also likely be impacted, Weinrath said, because people charged with homicide are typically held in remand, which can contribute to overcrowding.

“The reverberations of the homicides this year will be felt in the justice system for a few years.”

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Winnipeg police say man confessed to killing family member in homicide
Winnipeg police say man confessed to killing family member in homicide

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