Hate crimes, violent crimes in Winnipeg surged in 2023, annual police report says

Winnipeg recorded a jump in violent crimes in 2023, surpassing the five-year average by more than 3,600 offences, according to new data from police.

Slight increases in traffic, drug offences but overall, crime in Winnipeg actually dipped in 2023 from 2022

A police car is parked in an alley and surrounded by yellow police tape
The Winnipeg Police Service says total calls for service last year rose by about 10 per cent over 2022 and 20 per cent over the five-year average. There were over 750,000 calls, an average of over 2,000 every day in 2023. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Winnipeg recorded a jump in police-reported violent crimes in 2023, surpassing the five-year average by more than 3,600 offences, new data shows.

Hate crimes reached a recent historic high last year, though the actual number of hate-related incidents may be higher than what's reported to police, says the Winnipeg Police Service's annual statistical report, released Tuesday.

The data says there were 46 reported hate crimes, with 11 incidences of hate propaganda and 10 incidents each of assault and mischief.

There were a total of 28 hate crimes in 2022, and the five-year average is 32.

A graphic shows the number of hate crimes in various categories
The categorical breakdown of hate crimes reported to Winnipeg police in 2023. (Winnipeg Police Service)

The 15,074 violent crimes last year were an increase of 31.4 per cent over the five-year average (11,469) and a 12.1 per cent bump over 2022 (13,451).

They were driven primarily by year-over-year increases in robberies (+21.9 per cent) and assaults (+17.3), the report says.

Following a record high in 2022, the use of bear spray in violent crimes decreased sharply in 2023 (down 24.5 per cent), while crimes involving knives (+21.6 per cent), firearms (+5.6), and other weapons (+16.6) increased compared to 2022.

Similar to previous years, the majority of weapons crimes took place downtown and in Point Douglas. 

More than 2,000 violent crimes (13.8 per cent) could not be solved because the victim refused to participate in the investigation, the report says. 

The report also shows slight increases in traffic offences and drug offences, but overall, crime in Winnipeg actually dipped in 2023 compared to the previous year, by 2.2 per cent. However, it remained above the five-year average. 

That five-year average is somewhat skewed, influenced by low numbers in many categories during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, the report says.

A chart shows the types of crimes that occurred in Winnipeg in 2023.
(Winnipeg Police Service)

The decrease in total crimes in 2023 versus 2022 was driven primarily by a reduction in property crimes (-6.7 per cent).

The report includes a breakdown of the various categories, showing comparative data dating back to 2018.

There were more than 750,000 calls for service in 2023 — an average of more than 2,000 every day, said police service data analyst Dave Bowman. That was an increase of approximately 10 per cent over 2022 and of 20 per cent over the five-year average.

Those figures represent the total calls to the communications centre. Of those, officers were dispatched to almost 250,000, Bowman said. That's an increase of 5.6 per cent over 2022 and 6.2 per cent over the five-year average.

Although drug crimes only increased slightly, they are interlaced with something much bigger, which is already putting a burden on police resources this year, Supt. Dave Dalal said at a Tuesday morning news conference.

"The mental health crisis in the community is woven in with the meth crisis, because what we're seeing is people who are on meth acting in a manner that they never would normally act. And they're often violent, often unpredictable," she said.

"That is one of the largest strains on our front-line resources right now — dealing with those folks in crisis and the challenge of where to take them and who can deal with them."

Few, if any, shelters in the city have staff trained to deal with people in a meth-induced psychosis, said Dalal.

"So what often happens is our officers end up sitting with those folks in hospital, waiting for them to come down off their high until they're acting reasonably enough to be assessed by medical staff," he said.

"Sometimes, at that point, it's time to release them because they actually aren't suffering from a mental health crisis. They were just on drugs. So we have to find a different way to deal with that."

Shoplifting, fraud increase

When it comes to property crimes, nearly every category recorded year-over-year decreases, with the notable exceptions being shoplifting (+45.4 per cent) and fraud (+15.3). Shoplifting has doubled since 2021 but remains below 2019 and 2020 levels. 

Again, there is a connection to drugs when it comes to shoplifting, said Supt. Cam Mackid.

"A lot of the retail theft that you see … it's related to raising funds to purchase drugs," he said at Tuesday's news conference.

"Drugs drive a lot of the crime in this city, the violent crime for sure."

Thefts from motor vehicles also experienced a sharp year-over-year decrease driven by a significant reduction in catalytic converter thefts.

After declining steadily for a number of years, youth crimes trended upward for the second consecutive year. That category increased 23.1 per cent over 2022 and 14.3 per cent over the five-year average.

Violent youth crimes specifically were up 15.9 per cent year-over-year and 43.4 per cent over the five-year average.

Youth crimes involving a weapon have doubled since 2021, with youth accounting for one in every five people charged with a weapons crime.

Showing just how young some offenders are getting, 77 youth were younger than 12 at the time of the offence and could not be charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. 

The online report includes interactive maps where you can see statistical data on crimes and police activity in the city by community and neighbourhood. You can also filter crime and safety events by various categories.

A look at the numbers behind Winnipeg's violent-crime spike last year

1 month ago
Duration 2:20
Winnipeg recorded a jump in violent crimes in 2023, surpassing the five-year average by more than 3,600 offences, according to new data from police.


Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories. He is the author of award-nominated and bestselling The Lesser Known: A History of Oddities from the Heart of the Continent.