"We’re adding strength to specialized police units targeting hard-core criminals and guns while giving law-abiding Manitobans an opportunity to help keep dangerous and deadly weapons out of the hands of criminals by turning them over to police," said Swan.
For the month of October, Manitobans can call the non-emergency number of their local police service to have weapons they don’t want or need picked up. The police pick up the items rather than having them dropped off to better ensure everyone’s safety.
The province also announced it will support the addition of an RCMP officer and an analyst to the National Weapons Enforcement Support Team (NWEST) in Manitoba. NWEST is an integrated police unit whose investigations and expertise helps all police services gather evidence to successfully prosecute those involved in the smuggling and criminal use of firearms.
"The RCMP welcomes this increase in resources. These positions will certainly enhance our capacity to reduce crime and to better support all police agencies in Manitoba in their efforts to remove illegal firearms from the criminal element," said Assistant Commissioner Bill Robinson, commanding officer of RCMP ‘D’ Division. "Getting unwanted firearms out of circulation is one way for Manitobans to contribute to making our communities safer."
Two new RCMP members will also be added to the RCMP North District office in Thompson as part of its Crime Reduction Strategy for Northern Manitoba, an initiative that focuses intense police resources on prolific offenders.
Provincial prosecutors will be offered further training in firearms matters and an experienced Crown attorney with expertise in prosecuting firearms offences will be designated to work closely with NWEST on its investigations.
The increased enforcement efforts complement the amnesty, said Swan.
"The gun amnesty program is an excellent opportunity for the public to turn in any unwanted firearms, preventing them from falling into the hands of the criminal element," said Winnipeg Police Service Chief Keith McCaskill.
"Anytime an unwanted firearm is turned in by the public, it removes the possibility of this weapon being used in the commission of a criminal offence," said Keith Atkinson, chief of the Brandon Police Service and president of the Manitoba Association of Chiefs of Police. "This is an extremely positive program for law enforcement and public safety."
The police will not lay charges against someone turning in a weapon unless it turns out the weapon was used to commit a crime or was stolen. The opportunity to turn items in to the police will be in effect from today until Oct. 31. Weapons that are turned in will be destroyed.
More than 400 firearms were turned over to police during a provincewide firearms amnesty in 2007, adding to 315 netted in a similar amnesty in 2005. Items surrendered in 2007 included 352 rifles and shotguns, 49 handguns, six prohibited handguns, 28 pellet rifles or pistols, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
Today’s announcements build on several Manitoba initiatives to combat organized crime and illegal use of weapons. Manitoba was successful in calling for the federal government to amend the Criminal Code to:
· create a new offence to deal with drive-by shootings including a four-year minimum jail term
· make murders connected to gangs and other criminal organizations automatic first-degree offences
· make it more difficult to obtain bail when a firearm is used, and
· increase the mandatory minimum jail sentence for trafficking in or illegally smuggling firearms.