Worrying increase in bear spray crimes in Winnipeg
Two different brands of bear spray were purchased from two different stores in Winnipeg. Neither the Winnipeg Police Service nor the RCMP tracks the serial numbers of these increasingly used weapons in Winnipeg.
Incidents involving bear spray have increased by nearly 35% in Winnipeg in 2022. The powerful vaporizer has been used as a weapon in more than 1,100 incidents, according to local police data.
Data obtained from the Winnipeg Police Service indicates that 2022 was the worst year in five years for the use of bear spray. Police have compiled at least 1,141 reports, according to spokesperson Dani McKinnon.
This is a 34.6% increase from 2021, when 848 incidents had been reported, and an increase of 71.2% over the five-year average, police said in a statement.
Co-founder of two security initiatives, Sabe Peace Walkers and CommUNITY 204, Daniel Hidalgo, calls the growing use of this spray disturbing, especially after the series of random attacks in the West Broadway area last weekend .
Young people often associate the possession of bear spray with a form of respect and harshness, and the fear it arouses, he says.
“It's supposed to take down a ferocious 400-pound animal and they're using it on civilians.” I don't think they care how serious they are. »
— Daniel Hidalgo, co-founder of two safety initiatives in Winnipeg
Mr. Hidalgo is particularly concerned that bear spray is readily available.
Sven Jordt, an American expert in the use of these sprays on humans, acknowledges that some people underestimate its effects.
There is a misconception that the aerosol can only hurt for a while or cause pain for a while, but does not cause serious injury, says Associate Professor of Anaesthesiology, Pharmacology and Biology Cancer Center at Duke University in North Carolina.
These are serious weapons and should be treated as such, says Jordt.
Being pepper sprayed or bear sprayed is terribly painful for an individual, he says, but can also cause serious problems for people with underlying health concerns.
Since there is a fairly high percentage of people with asthma in the population, exposing them to pepper spray is very risky, and it could lead to further complications, asthma attacks and worse, mentions Sven Jordt.
Manitoba New Democratic Party MLA Matt Wiebe says bear spray regulations are outdated and need to be reviewed, as many other communities outside of Winnipeg are also witnessing these incidents.
He adds that it's about making sure [laws] are enforced, that retailers aren't left to their own devices, and ultimately that any information that they might collect that would be useful for law enforcement is accessible to them.
According to a spokesperson for the Manitoba government, vendors are required to read and sign a buyer's declaration form to people who purchase this vaporizer.
These forms must be submitted annually to the provincial Department of Agriculture, he says.
He adds that the government is open to the idea of hearing from law enforcement and other partners on how to make it harder for criminals to get these vaporizers.
With information from Rachel Bergen