The Manitoba government is investing $2.1 million to fund dedicated police resources to establish a Manitoba Integrated Missing Persons Response. The investment will reduce the number of missing adults and children across the province and provide co-ordinated inter-agency supports to those that go missing chronically, Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen and Families Minister Rochelle Squires, minister responsible for the status of women, announced today.
"Manitoba has seen high rates of missing persons over the last several years and in 2021, 63 per cent of missing children were runaway girls," said Goertzen. "This is an unacceptable reality, and our government is taking concrete action to intervene, protect children and families, and ensure the safety of our youth."
The Manitoba Integrated Missing Persons Response aligns directly with several recommendations of the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, such as the need for better-supported community-based first response and more responsive, transparent, and accountable policing, the minister noted. The investment will require co-ordination of police agencies, support services and community-services providers to assist in identifying and managing chronic missing persons in a responsive and co-ordinated way.
"We know that there are dozens of young people who are chronically reported as missing, and tragically some of these young people fall victim to violent predators," said Squires. "This response aims to both channel those chronic youth into community-support programs, while ensuring timely law-enforcement engagement on those cases that require it."
Under the new response, the Winnipeg Police Service and its specialized missing persons co-ordinators would become the centralized intake for the provincewide response.
"Having dedicated missing persons co-ordinators available 24-7 will provide consistent missing persons reporting no matter where you are in the province. The missing persons co-ordinators have the ability to immediately assess the risk, share information between police agencies, and assign the appropriate resources," said Chief Danny Smyth, Winnipeg Police Service. "This enhanced co-ordination ensures a timely investigation, and an effective way to liaise with families concerned about loved ones who are missing."
"The Manitoba RCMP receives approximately 10 missing persons reports per day. That is 3,500 missing persons investigations launched per year in RCMP jurisdiction alone-a staggering and concerning number," said Assistant Commissioner Rob Hill, commanding officer, Manitoba RCMP. "Without a doubt, this new integrated effort will greatly enhance police response to missing persons and help us achieve our ultimate goal: ensuring that missing persons across Manitoba are found quickly and safely."
Dedicated Child and Family Services (CFS) resources will be allocated within the integrated response unit to allow for a collaborative response, and support the CFS system and police in ensuring appropriate plans and responses are in place for youth in care who go missing. Use of integrated resources between CFS and law enforcement allows for timely sharing of information triaging responses across the two systems, and will ensure response plans are available for youth that are repeatedly reported missing to law enforcement, Squires noted.
The Manitoba Integrated Missing Persons Response is another part of the Department of Justice's Violent Crime Strategy, which is being supported with nearly $52 million in Budget 2023. Previous investments include $2.1 million for integrated child abuse response resources, $3.2 million for the creation of the Integrated Violent Offender Apprehension Unit to strengthen intensive bail and supervision for serious, violent offenders, and $1.4 million to Manitoba Prosecution Service to increase capacity to address violent crime.
Further measures to support safer streets and stronger communities will be announced in the coming weeks as part of the Violent Crime Strategy and Budget 2023, Goertzen noted.