It’s never easy.
Solving homicide cases is hard work.
People who commit murder seldom do so during business hours and have little regard for statutory holidays.
The calls often come in the early morning hours when most productive people are fast asleep in their cozy beds.
Some suggest solving homicides in Winnipeg is no big deal, just another “smoking beer bottle” they scoff.
If only it was that easy.
The people who do the work know different.
In 2016, the WPS Homicide Unit investigated a total of twenty-four (24) homicides solving all but four (4) cases securing a solvency rate of 83.33%.*
In 2015, the WPS Homicide Unit investigated a total of twenty-three (23) homicides solving all but two (2) cases securing a solvency rate of 91.3%.
I’m afraid not much can be learned from a mere 4% increase in the ultimate crime.
No trends, no patterns and no dire predictions can be made.
Having said that, crime analysis can offer some insight.
Western Canadian Homicide Stats
In 2016, homicide and solvency rates varied across Western Canada;
- Vancouver – 11 homicides – 9 unsolved – solvency rate = 18.18%**
- Calgary – 28 cases – 10 unsolved – solvency rate = 64.28%
- Edmonton – 41 cases – 20 unsolved – solvency rate 51.21%
- Regina – 7 cases – 3 unsolved – solvency rate = 57.14%
- Saskatoon – 11 cases – 1 case unsolved – solvency rate = 90.9%***
(The WPS Homicide Unit has achieved an approximate 90% average solvency rate over the last 15 years.)
Violence Against Women
Year over year violence against women in the City of Winnipeg went sideways.
In 2016, five (5) women were victims of homicide in the City of Winnipeg.
Two (2) of those cases remain unsolved.
In 2015, five (5) women were victims of homicide in the City of Winnipeg.
All five cases were solved.
Violence Against Indigenous Women
While many suggest the race of victims of homicide and perpetrators is irrelevant, I disagree.
How can race be irrelevant when the Government of Canada has embarked on an extensive nation wide Inquiry into Missing & Murdered “Indigenous” Women and Girls?
The race of victims and perpetrators has to be relevant.
Unfortunately, police agencies tend to be very cautious and prefer not to release this kind of information.
That means media is left to make certain assumptions based on surnames, photographs and family disclosures.
Nonetheless, what can be learned from the killings of Indigenous women in Winnipeg in 2016?
Of the five (5) women killed four (4) appear to be of Indigenous origin.
- 4 Indigenous women killed
- 2 cases remain unsolved (Marilyn Rose Munroe-41 & Brenda Campbell-51)
- 3 Indigenous women & 1 Indigenous man charged in the solved killings
- Killers were previously known to victims in all solved cases
In 2015, three (3) Indigenous women were victims of homicide.
In those cases;
- 3 Indigenous men were charged in the killings
- Killers were previously known to victims in all cases
- Domestic or family violence was identified as a motive in all three killings
If you do the analysis, you will find the majority of killers of Indigenous women come from the Indigenous community.
That’s a hard truth.
There’s no mystery, no phenomena and no need for speculation or debate.
As previously indicated, capturing accurate data regarding the racial origin of victims and perpetrators is no easy task.
That information vacuum is largely responsible for one of the most significant stories of the year remaining untold.
It seems Indigenous over-representation in homicide in the City of Winnipeg may have peaked in 2016.
Of the 24 victims, 14 or 58.33% appear to be of Indigenous origin.
Of the 36 alleged offenders, 27 or 75% appear to be of Indigenous origin.
According to Statistics Canada, Indigenous people represent only 11% of the population in the City of Winnipeg.
The numbers are staggering.
I can’t recall a time in recent history when the over-representation of Indigenous people, as both victims and perpetrators of homicide, was so disproportionate.
Unfortunately, you won’t find this part of the story anywhere in mainstream media.
It seems to me, if the facts were more widely known the need to effect change might be more urgent.
Nothing changes if nothing changes.
Gang Related Killings
In 2016, the WPS investigated three (3) gang related homicide cases.
In 2015, the WPS investigated two (2) gang related homicide cases.
Although worthing of noting, the slight increase remains well below historical trends.
In 2013, the WPS investigated six (6) gang related homicides.
(In earlier years police investigated a significant number of gang related killings.)
In 2016, no young offenders were charged with murder.
In 2015, two (2) young offenders were charged with 1st and 2nd degree murder in unrelated killings.
These numbers are encouraging when you consider ten (10) young persons were charged with either manslaughter or murder offences in 2010.
(These numbers in no way suggest the City of Winnipeg does not have a youth crime problem.)
(Note: a sixteen (16) year old male youth has been charged with 2nd degree murder in connection with the first homicide of 2017)
2016 Homicide Age Demographics
- Youngest Victim – Cooper Nemeth (17)
- Oldest Victim – Eugene Harris (62)
- Average age of victims – 40.37 years (Total of 24 victims)
- Youngest Perpetrator – Richard Paul (19)
- Oldest Perpetrator – Erskine Ruggles (61)
- Average age of perpetrators – 29.22 years (Total of 36 perpetrators)
Manner of Death – 2016 Homicides
- Blunt Force – 11
- Stabbing – 6
- Shooting – 5
- Arson – 2
- Male – 19
- Female – 5
Manner of Death – 2015 Homicides
- Blunt Force – 9
- Stabbing – 7
- Shooting – 5
- Vehicular Assault – 1
- Not Reported – 1
- Male – 17
- Female – 5
- Infant – Female – 1
As you can see from these statistics the same year over year pattern emerged regarding cause of death in Winnipeg homicides.
The top three causes of death remain;
- 1) Blunt force trauma or assault
- 2) Stabbings
- 3) Shootings
Looking Ahead to 2017
On January 3, 2017, the City of Winnipeg recorded the first homicide of the year.
Tyler Kirton (25) of Winnipeg was gunned down in the Elmwood area.
Police have said little regarding the killing.
In 2016, the first homicide of the year was reported on January 12.
Let’s hope the fast start isn’t indicative of what’s in store for the new year.
*One of the unsolved WPS cases from 2016 occurred on July 7 and involved the death of a man and woman who died in a house fire later determined to be Arson. The victims were identified as John Bendon (61) and Brenda Campbell (51) both of Winnipeg. Should the Homicide Unit manage to solve these killings their solvency rate would jump to 91.66%.
**For the purposes of this report, “solved cases” refer to cases where murder or manslaughter charges are laid in connection with a homicide. In two unrelated cases investigated by the Vancouver Police Homicide Unit, charges of kidnapping and indignity to human remains were laid. Murder or manslaughter charges were not laid in either case, as a result, the cases remain in the “unsolved” category.
***The Saskatoon Police Service does not have a “Homicide Unit” per se. Homicide cases are investigated by the Major Crimes Unit. The Major Crimes Unit is led by a Staff Sergeant who supervises eight (8) homicide / violent crime investigators. According to available statistics, 2016 may have been a record year for homicides in Saskatoon. Since 2000, the highest number of recorded homicides was ten (10) in 2010. The lowest number was one (1) homicide recorded in 2001.
The Police Insider wishes to express our appreciation to the Western Canadian Police Agencies who provided statistics for this story.