The first step is admitting there’s a problem

(eBaums world)

“1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol— that our lives had become unmanageable.”

-Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step of the 12-step program

Wanna make Manitoba — home of the violent crime capital of Canada — a safer place to live?

Want to make a meaningful effort to restore public order after this election season?

Then we need to take meaningful, even drastic, steps to get Manitoba’s booze problem under control.

Reductions in violent crime will follow, and I’d imagine pretty quickly at that.

While all signs point to the abuse of booze being the single most common factor in all occurrences of violent crime, Manitoba is moving forward — with plans to get booze into the hands of people in easier and more convenient ways.

Bars and clubs in Winnipeg are packed, night after night, even though the majority of people that I know anyway readily admit they’re only somewhat fun to be at; that the overall experience is kind of sad from a social-interaction perspective.

Why is that?

Casinos in Winnipeg — all government controlled — are also doing brisk business, despite the fact winning it big is a losing proposition for most.

Why is that?

The Manitoba Liquor Control Commission rings up record sales year after year after year according to its annual reports. Sales keep climbing, along with the violent crime rate. (In millions of dollars)

2007 — $521,380

2008 — $554,769

2009 — $583,763

2010 — $610,515

Why is that?

Despite a decline in the number of charges laid last year over 2009, impaired driving in Manitoba remains a massive public safety issue. Each time police run a project to crack down on the crime, drunk drivers are caught. There’s never a time the cops head home after a Checkstop shift scratching their heads and saying, ‘ I guess that’s been taken care of.’

Why is that?

I’m no expert in addictions, and I like a cold beer like pretty much everyone else.

But one thing I can say from experience, is that if a serious violent crime happens in Winnipeg, booze is likely a backdrop to the events leading up to it.

Just look at the incredibly serious cases making recent headlines in Winnipeg’s crime news:

Nikita Eaglestick abducts a baby and inexplicably smashes its face on a sidewalk. She was so drunk she couldn’t remember anything about doing it or what led up to it. At the time, she was on bail and bound by a court order to abstain from drinking.

A drinking party in the northern fringes of the West End prompts family members to arm themselves and spill into the streets. A man is run over and killed when a van is used as a weapon. A teen girl faces a first-degree murder charge and an attempted murder charge to boot.

A man twice hailed as a hero for saving people from drowning admits that his chronic alcoholism was a major factor in contributing to an assault on a city doctor when she didn’t have any money to offer him.

“(Faron) Hall said he looks forward to getting out of jail soon, but added that he is nervous because he doesn’t know if or how he can get counselling to kick his alcohol addiction.”

These are but a few of the most blatant and easy to find examples at my fingertips.

But also consider how youth violent crime is also rising. Do we know precisely what role FASD plays in that? Anecdotally, everyone knows it’s a huge issue, and one that’s expensive and complex to fix. We largely leave that largely to an overtaxed justice system to ferret out and try to stem.

But in this provincial election season, we need to come to grips with what the real problem is and expect those who want to lead us into the future to show some vision on this front. If the provincial government can’t change the criminal law per se, it can change the atmosphere in which the law exists. It does, at the end of the day, have the Liquor Control Act in its back pocket.

Instead, the electorate is promised more police officers as the primary way of boosting public safety or order, the cure-all for our seemingly intractable crime issues.

Let’s think about that.

We know that the number one — by a huge margin — call for service police officers spend their times going to are domestic disturbances. (17,019 dispatched calls in 2009. The next highest was ‘check wellbeing’ (also booze-influenced) at 7,862).

How many of those domestics are booze-related — ie: Jimmy got pissed and beat Janey up again?

Eighty per cent? I’d guess it’s even possibly higher.

If we as a society were to try and get a handle on our booze problem, how much police resource time would be saved for officers to do other things? I’d suggest it would be huge. The need for new cops would be nil.

We also know that bootlegging outside the city onto so-called ‘dry’ reserves is a huge problem.

Kives had a good column on new cops as election pledge today.

Look: I know there’s the argument of personal responsibility here. People have to be held accountable for what they choose to ingest and the public’s fed up with intoxication being used as a defence against  culpability for vile criminal acts.

(FASD presents a thorny issue, though, as most would readily admit that unborns can’t make the choice to have that vodka shot or not).

But let’s at least call a spade a spade and take the first step in admitting Manitoba has a drinking problem.

Since the state regulates the sale and consumption of booze, and profits greatly from it, we should demand nothing less. It’s time to have a real discussion about crime in our province and how to meaningfully affect change.

And now — at least up until Oct. 4 is the time we did it.

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Winnipeg’s deadliest day of the week (So far)

(James Turner)

With 29 homicides [not counting the criminal negligence cases that police don’t officially tally as such] so far this year in Winnipeg, we’re slowly getting to Edmonton levels with four months left to go in the year.

And while culpable killings, naturally, are difficult to predict, one trend stands out.

There’s 2 to 1 odds if someone’s going to kill you, it will happen on a Saturday. 

Of the killing events [not the total number of deaths in the case of multiple victims such as the 5 for 1 arson at the rooming house earlier this summer], seven took place on a Saturday.

The events break down as follows (with one case undetermined as to time of death, so not included in the tally)…

  • Monday: 3
  • Tuesday: 2
  • Wednesday: 3
  • Thursday: 2
  • Friday: 3
  • Saturday: 7
  • Sunday: 3

I can’t say if the Saturday likelihood of violent death speaks to any trend in particular [except for the fact past years follow suit, largely], Many of the deaths happen on a day where people are raring to relax after a long week, perhaps have funds to purchase booze or drugs, and get right ornery when they consume too much as the majority of the circumstances of the killings appear to suggest.

I’m not sure if there’s some policies that could be altered to acknowledge this and perhaps bring some calm to the deadliest day of the year so far: Saturday, but it may be worth a look.

Also, I’d like to point out that the bulk of the homicides are currently cleared by police in terms of their charging of the suspect. At my count, it stands at about 85-90 per cent — a high number and one to be proud of the WPS for.

On the flip side, we’re seeing no reaction from either the city or the WPS regarding plans to combat the violence as was the recent case in Edmonton. 

Should Winnipeg hit 35 homicides this year, it would be a record number — the highest since 2004.

Chief Keith McCaskill said months ago violent-crime reduction targets for the city would be announced as part of a strategic plan the service has been working on — and said recently there have been (unspecified) delays in that plan — but as yet, there’s been no official public announcement about reduction targets. However, to be fair, police can’t predict homicides by and large, so maybe those targets will have no impact on same.

Updated List of homicides, victims and charges

1] Jan 6 (Thursday): Darryl John SINCLAIR, 45, stabbed. Robert Carl PRINCE, 44 charged with 2nd-degree murder.

2] Jan 16 (Sunday): Zenon Sylvester BOZYNSKI, 48 injured, perhaps beaten outside a Redwood Avenue apartment block. Jamie Jossens MORRISSEAU, 27 years of Winnipeg and Gamielle William Harry COURCHENE, 25 years of Fort Alexander, Manitoba have both been charged with 2nd Degree Murder.

3] Jan 28 (Friday): A 16-year-old male stabbed on Allegheny Drive. 28-year-old Matthew Craig KRASNY of Winnipeg has been arrested and charged with 2nd Degree Murder as a result of his alleged involvement.

4 and 5] Feb 5 (Saturday): Darren Joey SWAMPY, 19 years of age and Lee Brady SPENCE, 22 shot on Elgin Avenue. Randy Murray WILLIAMS, 27 years of age was arrested and subsequently charged with 2nd Degree Murder x 2 as a result of his alleged involvement.

6] A 22-year-old man arrested in connection to a criminal negligence cause death case where a man was killed in a snowmobile crash on Jan. 13 (Thursday).

7] Feb 18 (Friday): Casandra Lydia KNOTT, 27 is arrested for the homicide of Orzias Joram KNOTT, 34.

8] Feb 24 (Undetermined): Senior citizen Elizabeth Lafantasie is found dead, stuffed in her trunk. A few days later Thomas Brine is arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

9] March 16 (Wednesday), Abdul Rahim Mah JEMEI 22 is stabbed to death downtown. A 16 year old male is arrested soon after, and Ramsey SWAIN, 24 is charged March 29.

10] March 28 (Monday): Frank Alexander dies after an alleged assault at Parkview Place. Joe McLeod, an alzheimer’s patient, is charged with manslaughter.

11]April 13 (Wednesday): Joanna Storm died crossing Henderson Highway. An 18-year-old man is charged with criminal negligence cause death.

12] April 20 (Wednesday), 42-year-old Sheila Fontaine is killed outside the Merchant’s Hotel on Selkirk. The arrest of Teya Wynter SPENCE, 18 is announced a few days later. She and three other teen girls face manslaughter charges.

13] April 29 (Friday): 20-year-old Trevor Harper is shot in the 500 block of Portage. 15 year old male youth was located and arrested in the area of Pembina Highway and Plaza Drive on May 4 .

14] May 10 (Tuesday): Solomon Joseph Andrew TURNER found dead — stabbed — in his home. The next day, Lloyd Alfred Lindsay is charged with second-degree murder. Wanda Lisa RAHMAN (Bruce), 32 is charged with the same crime May 27.

15] May 14 (Saturday): Gina Swanson, 33 is found dead in her Edderton Avenue home. Schuyler Vanwissen [sometimes van Wissen] Charged with first-degree murder after being arrested in Toronto Aug. 12.

16] IRIS HEALD (GALLANT) dies May 16 (Monday) after hitting her head after an attack in the West End. Cynthia Elaine Thomas, 35, is charged.

17] May 16 (Monday): Gerald Crayford, 54, dies after an apparent assault at a Pizza Hotline outlet. A 15-year-old is charged with second-degree murder. Byron Charlie Bushie, 18 is arrested and charged with the same crime a few days later.

18] May 21 (Saturday): Leslie Alex OKEMOW, 29 is found dead at the St. Regis. Arnold Harper turns himself in to face a manslaughter charge on May 21.

19] June 26 (Sunday): Steven Kyle DODGE, 26, found stabbed on Arlington. Same day: Nathan Allan BRICKLIN, 18 years of age is charged with second-degree murder.

20, 21, 22, 23 and 24] Lulonda Lynn Flett is charged with five counts of second degree murder for the July 16 (Saturday) arson-related deaths of Norman Darius ANDERSON, 22 years Maureen Claire HARPER, 54 years, Kenneth Bradley MONKMAN, 49 years, Dean James STRANDEN, 44 years, and Robert Curtis LAFORTE, 56 years. She also faces three attempted murder charges.

25] Cara Lynn HIEBERT, 31 is found dead in her home July 19 (Tuesday) and her death is considered a homicide. Case as-yet unsolved. Anyone who has information regarding this incident is asked to call investigators at 986-6508 or CrimeStoppers at 786- TIPS (8477).

26] Aug. 5 (Friday), Baljinder Singh Sidhu killed after an incident in Osborne Village. Case still unsolved. Anyone who has information regarding this incident is asked to call investigators at 986-6508 or CrimeStoppers at 786- TIPS (8477).

27] Aug. 20. (Saturday) Marcel Murdock dies after being hit by a vehicle after a street brawl on Garfield Street North. A 17-year-old girl is initally charged with manslaughter, but charges are later upgraded to first-degree murder.

28] Aug. 21 (Sunday), Tim Koostachin dies after hitting his head after a fight. 19 year old Ray Vaughn MUNRO has been charged with Manslaughter due to his alleged involvement.

29] Aug. 27 (Saturday) Robert Rourke, 22, dies after a stabbing a week earlier after a party. Gregory Troy Govereau faces a second-degree murder charge.

30] Aug. 27 (Saturday) April Hornbrook, 24, is found dead on a dirt path near the Main Street train overpass. No arrests yet made.

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For the Record: Fort Rouge arson-prevention meeting

(Staff Sgt. Kelly Dennison is a supervisor in District 6, and a former Public Information Officer for the Winnipeg Police Service)

About 100 Fort Rouge residents gathered Wednesday night to her presentations from fire officials and police about the rash of arsons in the area.

Bill Clark from the WFPS gave a great and concise presentation, as did one officer from the Fire Commissioner’s Office who’s name I didn’t catch.

But, as I suspected would happen, it was the police district representative, Staff Sgt. Kelly Dennison, who was on his feet the most to respond to people’s concerns during the Q and A portion.

And, I might add, there was much buzz in the Twitterverse about how cadets are used in the city based on reported comments by Dennison in the Free Press at a separate meeting the night before. Specifically, the implication was there in the story that the province and police service wouldn’t allow the blue-shirts to work anywhere but downtown. Some were upset there was no follow up to clarify this statement because cadets have appeared in many places in the city.

I didn’t make that meeting, but I did the next night. What’s presented below are Dennison’s comments to two questions, reprinted verbatim. Any questions about accuracy and I’ll post the audio on Archive.org.

I won’t make any comments regarding what Dennison says below.

But I wonder if the service knew how popular the Cadet program was to be when it dreamed it up a few years back.

People in the area clearly appear to be pondering lately the level of police service they’re able to access.

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Question: “This question is for District 6 (Dennison)  — are you using bicycle patrols and or cadets in the wee hours to patrol? [Inaudible] fires have been set between 2 and 4 a.m. Are you using that [inaudible]?”

Dennison: “The Winnipeg Police Service does have a very small bicycle unit. The District 6 police, themselves, they do not. Our Community Support officers are not deployed on bicycles in your area — in this area at this time. So I guess the easy answer to that is, ‘no, we don’t have police officers on bicycles — full time — here in District 6.

We do have the opportunity and ability to import officers that do ride bicycles. We have a small unit of those officers that, upon request from myself or a division commander, we can ask for those officers to come in to our division and help us with some patrols.

As far as the cadets go — I don’t know if you guys are all aware — cadets were very active in this last investigation, very active in assisting us in this community. They were here, they spent countless hours walking in our community and up and down the streets.

They’re basically, as you know, the eyes and ears for the police officers that are out there, so they have been here. I can tell you that the Cadet program is something that — as you all know already — is relatively new to the Winnipeg Police Service. It’s not a program that’s been around for a long time. It does have some growing pains, and it is expanding. This program is expanding.

Those officers, currently, are being deployed by the police service, basically, for efficiency and operational needs. And you have to understand that it’s one unit, and the police service, our service, has to take a look at the entire city.

In saying that, however, there are bright things in the future for that program, I can tell you that. And we are hoping that more cadets are coming online and we do anticipate seeing cadets in your community in the future.

Please don’t ask me a date or time for that, sorry, I can’t do that for you. That’s basically where we stand with that.

[clapping]

Question: Paul Hesse, Liberal candidate in upcoming provincial election: Some of the things we heard last night [at a meeting at a Stafford Street church] was that community support officers in this area have been redeployed out of the area. So one question I have is: Can we ever expect community support officers to remain deployed here, or is there just a shortage of officers throughout the city and more resources needed? Also, there has been a safety plan developed downtown, I understand there hasn’t been a formal safety plan developed in the Osborne Village or Fort Rouge areas [inaudible] create one? My third question is there has been [inaudible] for more foot patrols, especially in the Osborne Village area, and also we’re hearing that request in this area, [inaudible] expansion of the cadet program — what would be needed to make that happen

[clapping]

Dennison: Ok, I’ll try and go through that as best I can. Yes it is true that the community support unit that is in your area has been redeployed downtown. That redeployment came as a result of very, very serious incidents that we’re all probably aware of here in the City of Winnipeg.

Those officers and their skill set and expertise was required in a different part of the city to deal with some very, very serious crimes that we have going on right now. I hope you can all please understand that — and I’m sure you do — that when we have serious crime in the City of Winnipeg, as a police service, it’s incumbent on us to deal with that crime as a whole no matter where it happens in the City of Winnipeg.

I’m lucky — I’m one of the lucky guys — who gets to work out in this beautiful part of town, but we’re not all that lucky. So our officers do have to be redeployed. And as a service we do our best to redeploy our officers where the need arises and where it’s most efficient and [inaudible] operational.

And that is something that the police service takes very seriously, because it’s never easy, pulling an officer out of one area and into another. I can tell you as a commander out here in District 6, I look forward to having my officers back, and I’m sure you all want them back as well.

I can’t tell you that they’ll be back tomorrow, I can tell you two of them came back today [laughter from crowd].

So the community support unit is something that all of you rely on whether you know it or not. In this room, you do rely on your community support unit very much and we as police officers rely on them quite extensively as well

We do have [inaudible] of officers. They’re the ones that come out into the community and talk with you, they’re the ones that deal with community complaints, and of course we don’t have enough. You know, of course not.

Will we ever have enough, probably not. That’s the nature of policing, and that’s the nature of the growth of our city — that’s the nature of the demographics of the city we live in.

As far as deployment goes, however, I do have to stress that the police service does take that very seriously having to redeploy officers from other areas of the city to deal with emergent criminal activity.

As far as the downtown safety plan and has one been developed for Osborne Village? Yes, one has been developed in Osborne Village. We developed it at the start of the summer. It was developed by two extremely talented officers out here in District 6, It obviously [inaudible] — has started to be put in place, when serious crime happened here in Winnipeg.

We had some gang issues, as you all know, our officers had to be redeployed and deal with some of that. A safety plan has been put in place, an action plan — we call it an action plan — that’s what we term it as — I guess it’s kind of, where you’re going — We call it an action plan here in District 6 because it helps us plan our day to be out in the community with you, have our officers out there and involved.

That action plan hasn’t fully come to fruition. Basically because of the circumstances and situations we here in Winnipeg find ourselves in everyday. I don’t know if that helps or not?

As far as the Cadets … is there an expansion of the Cadet program?

Again [inaudible], I’m not the expert. And everyone seems to think I’m the expert on the cadet program. I’m not. I run District 6. The Cadet program is the program that is just [inaudible] — it’s a growing program. It’s still growing within the City of Winnipeg.

More Cadets are being hired. And those Cadets are the eyes and ears of the Winnipeg Police Service. And they go out into the community — those are the young men and women that you see walking up and down the street. And I know for myself, I love seeing them out there, and I know you must love seeing them out there too, it gives you a sense of security that somebody’s out there watching on your behalf.

They have a very strict mandate. And they follow that mandate basically to the letter. Because they’re not peace officers.

A lot of young cadets are very energetic and are great young people. And a lot of the reason they join the Cadet program is they want to further their career in law-enforcement someday. So we hire cadets, we train the cadets, they get the experience and the next thing you know, we hire them as police officers and we have to hire more cadets.

So, the cadet program is expanding, and I can tell you I know there have been beats identified in the Osborne Village for the cadet program, but I can’t stand here today and give you a definitive answer as to when you can all look out your window and see a cadet walk by.  [Laughter from crowd]

I’d love to be able to tell you they’ll be there tonight when you get home. But that’s just simply not the case and I just hope you can understand that it’s resource-driven, that it’s efficiency driven and it’s operationally driven by the Winnipeg Police Service.

[Clapping]

Other questions included:

Why don’t police release mug shots of suspects upon their arrest (one man wanted to know if an encounter he had in his garage was with Brandon Sutyla, the suspected serial arsonist police have charged with 18 of the Fort Rouge fires)

Another woman asked why we have a helicopter but police keep talking about having not enough bodies to service neighbourhoods (Gerbasi handled this, assuring her she tells WPS Chief Keith McCaskill her concerns every time she sees him).

At this point, I was on my way out the door when a young man got up and asked the panel (but really, the police representatives) a question along the lines of: ‘You tell us you don’t have enough. What can we do to see that you get what you need?

The mic was passed to MLA Jennifer Howard, who spoke of “investments” made in policing by the province — but I had to write to deadline so I had to leave.

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24 city homicides, a list:

There’s been some confusion in the twitterverse recently about the number of homicides in Winnipeg so far in 2011. Here’s a quick reference list of victims and suspects. The details of the crimes are not comprehensive.

Updated Friday July 22: Deletes the arrests in Roger Michelle’s death [see below] and adds the criminal-negligence related arrest in a car-person collision in April.

Updated Wednesday July 27: Blogger Rae Butcher makes a point in the comments below: Joe McLeod was charged with manslaughter in connection to the death of a nursing-home patient. 

Updated again, same day: A story from 2008 where WPS asserts Criminal Negligence Cause Death Cases are no longer counted:

I guess the issue is, if I take out the ones below, that leaves us at 22, when the official tally is at 23. Therefore, I leave the Crim Negs for the record.

1] Jan 6: Darryl John SINCLAIR, 45, stabbed. Robert Carl PRINCE, 44 charged with 2nd-degree murder.

2] Jan 16: Zenon Sylvester BOZYNSKI, 48 injured, perhaps beaten outside a Redwood Avenue apartment block. Jamie Jossens MORRISSEAU, 27 years of Winnipeg and Gamielle William Harry COURCHENE, 25 years of Fort Alexander, Manitoba have both been charged with 2nd Degree Murder.

3] Jan 28: A 16-year-old male stabbed on Allegheny Drive. 28 year old Matthew Craig KRASNY of Winnipeg has been arrested and charged with 2nd Degree Murder as a result of his alleged involvement.

4 and 5] Feb 5: Darren Joey SWAMPY, 19 years of age and Lee Brady SPENCE, 22 shot on Elgin Avenue. Randy Murray WILLIAMS, 27 years of age was arrested and subsequently charged with 2nd Degree Murder x 2 as a result of his alleged involvement.

6] A 22-year-old man arrested in connection to a criminal negligence cause death case where a man was killed in a snowmobile crash on Jan. 13.

7] Feb 18: Casandra Lydia KNOTT, 27 is arrested for the homicide of Orzias Joram KNOTT, 34.

8] Feb 24: Senior citizen Elizabeth Lafantasie is found dead, stuffed in her trunk. A few days later Thomas Brine is arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

9] March 16, Abdul Rahim Mah JEMEI 22 is stabbed to death downtown. a 16 year old male is arrested soon after, and Ramsey SWAIN, 24 is charged March 29.

10] March 28: Frank Alexander dies after an alleged assault at Parkview Place. Joe McLeod, an alzheimer’s patient, is charged with manslaughter.

11]April 13: Joanna Storm died crossing Henderson Highway. An 18-year-old man is charged with criminal negligence cause death.

12] April 20, 42-year-old Sheila Fontaine is killed outside the Merchant’s Hotel on Selkirk. The arrest of Teya Wynter SPENCE, 18 is announced a few days later. She and three other teen girls face manslaughter charges.

13] April 29: 20-year-old  Trevor Harper is shot in the 500 block of Portage. 15 year old male youth was located and arrested in the area of Pembina Highway and Plaza Drive on May 4 .

14] May 10: Solomon Joseph Andrew TURNER found dead — stabbed — in his home. The next day, Lloyd Alfred Lindsay is charged with second-degree murder. Wanda Lisa RAHMAN (Bruce), 32 is charged with the same crime May 27.

15] May 14: Gina Swanson, 33 is found dead in her Edderton Avenue home. Case currently unsolved. anyone who may have information regarding this investigation is asked to contact them at 986-6508 or CrimeStoppers at 786-TIPS (8477).

16] May 16: Gerald Crayford, 54, dies after an apparent assault at a Pizza Hotline outlet. A 15-year-old is charged with second-degree murder. Byron Charlie Bushie, 18 is arrested and charged with the same crime a few days later.

17] May 21: Leslie Alex OKEMOW, 29 is found dead at the St. Regis. Arnold Harper turns himself in to face a manslaughter charge on May 21.

18] June 26: Steven Kyle DODGE, 26, found stabbed on Arlington. Same day: Nathan Allan BRICKLIN, 18 years of age is charged with second-degree murder.

19, 20, 21, 22, 23] Lulonda Lynn Flett is charged with five counts of second degree murder for the arson-related deaths of  Norman Darius ANDERSON, 22 years Maureen Claire HARPER, 54 years, Kenneth Bradley MONKMAN, 49 years, Dean James STRANDEN, 44 years, and Robert Curtis LAFORTE, 56 years. She also faces three attempted murder charges.

24] Cara Lynn HIEBERT, 31 is found dead in her home and is considered a homicide. Case as-yet unsolved. Anyone who has information regarding this incident is asked to call investigators at 986-6508 or CrimeStoppers at 786- TIPS (8477).

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Kinda bizarre is how the two as-yet unsolved homicides involve young mothers found dead in their homes.

As well, arrests were made in a 2009 homicide in January. June 13, 2009: Wayne Roger MICHELLE, shot. William Evan LAPORTE, 21 years and an 18 year old male, who was a youth at the time of the offence, have been charged with 1st degree Murder and Attempt Murder with a Weapon.

City crime fight will take vision, focus and will: Linden

(Rick Linden/U of M)

It took vision, planning, co-ordination and resources to get Winnipeg’s new stadium and NHL team off the ground, and the same principles should apply to how we grapple with our perpetually aggravating crime rate, one expert says.

University of Manitoba criminologist Rick Linden said if Winnipeg is to truly make a dent in reducing crime, the city and province should consider setting up what he calls a “responsibility centre” to tackle the problem.

A key feature would be the appointment of a city crime czar with a crime-reduction mandate.

“We need to take a long-term perspective, put somebody in charge of that job and give them resources. We don’t do that now,” Linden said.

He said such an agency’s first step would likely need a good deal of meat-and-potatoes policing to help communities foster change in a safe atmosphere.

The next would be rebuilding community institutions, merging crime-prevention programs and providing them with stable funding. There’s a lot of community volunteers in the city willing to take on such a challenge, Linden said.

Finally, hang on to crime-reduction gains by ensuring resources aren’t diverted or depleted over the long-term.

“To think we can leave it to this multiplicity of agencies with no focus is quite astounding to me, actually,” Linden said. “It isn’t rocket science, it’s taking things (already) out there, setting up process and enabling it to succeed.

“It does require will,” he said.

The university professor was one of the key people behind a comprehensive strategy to reduce auto theft in Winnipeg. Under the Winnipeg Auto Theft Suppression Strategy, auto theft has dropped 86 per cent over 2006 numbers, Linden said.

The program coordinated the efforts of Manitoba Public Insurance, Manitoba Justice and Winnipeg police to keep tabs on teen car thieves that wreaked havoc on city streets when they were not in jail.

Alberta has made great efforts to develop a “large-scale” program to curb crime, Linden said. Calgary’s police-reported crime rate as reported by Statistics Canada is far lower than Winnipeg’s, he noted.

In addition to keeping car thieves in check, what WATSS also does is prove a data-led, coordinated approach to a crime issue can work, and work well, said Linden.

“It’s a long-term strategy, but if we really want to make significant gains … we can take some dramatic steps,” Linden said.

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—Reprinted from Metro Winnipeg 21/07/2011

Link to Stats Can’s Juristat article here:

Homicide: best practices

[Note: For those looking for how to commit the perfect crime as the headline could suggest, this post is not for you.]

There’s been a lot of debate lately over the Winnipeg Police Service homicide unit’s operations, largely driven by a former supervising sergeant’s labour board complaint about how he was treated and how he believes the Winnipeg Police Service’s transfer policy hampers the effectiveness of the unit.

As previously stated, I won’t go into much greater detail about the Labour Board hearing so far, as it’s really Mike McIntyre and the Free Press’ baby (Links hereherehere and here).

But there’s a question I’ve been asking myself and finally dug into a but yesterday.

What, from an operational/internal POV makes for a (quote-unquote) good/effective homicide unit? The rate at which crimes are solved? Convictions? Response times?

Turns out a retired homicide commander in the U.S. wondered the same thing in 2007-08. A rising national homicide rate was worrying him and he began formally asking around among his peers.

Timothy Keel’s study, published by the FBI, is available here.

He sets out the issues as follows:

Nationally, the number of homicides reported by police departments to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program is on the rise.1 Equally disturbing, the clearance rate for those crimes continues to decline.Law enforcement officials are increasingly concerned about the reasons for these statistics and what they can do about them. Although most homicide unit supervisors are confident in their detectives’ abilities to solve cases, they might be asking themselves if, from a management perspective, their current practices and procedures allow for the highest possible clearance rate.

To explore these issues, the author conducted a study of homicide units across the country. He developed a questionnaire that pertained to a variety of operational and management issues and focused on how the well-performing units investigate homicides.3 Departments chosen for this study met two criteria: 1) they have more than 25 HPY (homicides per year) over a 5-year average, and 2) they submit crime data for the UCR Program.4 Eighty-one departments received questionnaires, and 55 completed and returned them.responses.

The finer points of the article break down trends and arrive at some kind of consensus about what ‘best practices’ are for murder police and their bosses. The summary goes as follows, bolded bullet emphasis mine.

Keys to a Successful Homicide Unit

  • No more than five cases per year as a primary for each detective
  • Minimum of two, two-person units responding initially to the crime scene
  • Case review by all involved personnel within the first 24 to 72 hours
  • Computerized case management system with relational capacity
  • Standardized and computerized car-stop and neighborhood-canvass forms
  • Compstat-style format
  • Effective working relationships with medical examiners and prosecutors
  • No rotation policy for homicide detectives
  • Accessibility to work overtime when needed
  • Cold case squads
  • Investigative tools, such as polygraph, bloodstain pattern analysis, criminal investigative analysis, and statement analysis
  • Homicide unit and other personnel work as a team
Personnel Rotation

The issue of rotating detectives out of the homicide unit after a set period of time, regardless of their effectiveness as an investigator, is a relatively new phenomenon plaguing many supervisors. While the concept of a rotation policy may have benefits from a management perspective, this study suggested that chiefs considering implementing such a policy for homicide detectives should proceed cautiously. For example, only 3 of the 55 departments had a rotation policy of any type within their detective division. No department with an average of over 80 HPY (ed: homicides per year) reported having a rotation policy for homicide detectives. Even agencies that currently have a rotation policy extend the period of time that a detective can remain in the unit.

[Aside: interestingly, Keel’s ‘study’ also reports a rise in clearance rates [clearance meaning a suspect was arrested/charged] when a prosecutor visits the homicide scene. But the involvement of prosecutors can also take away from clearing a homicide, likely because the lawyer demands more evidence be gathered prior to officers charging someone.]
Departments that typically involved a prosecutor in the early stages of an investigation had a higher clearance rate on average. The average clearance rate became progressively lower when prosecutors became involved during the later stages of an investigation. Conversely, departments that require detectives to consult prosecutors before issuing an arrest warrant had a 6.6 percent lower clearance rate than those that did not have such a requirement. Perhaps, departments that allow detectives to use their judgment pertaining to prosecutor notification and prosecutors comfortable enough to allow detectives that discretion have a better working relationship.
Typically, the Winnipeg Police Service’s homicide clearance rate has been very good, with — by my counting — roughly four out of five homicides being cleared by charging a suspect.
Annual reports from the WPS say 81 per cent of homicides cleared in 09-10 and 08-09. 
Seventy-seven per cent were cleared in 07-08, up 23 per cent from the year prior. 
Time will only tell how 10-11 and 11-12 pan out.
But no matter what police do in terms of the HR structuring of the unit, the investigators placed there, and the vagaries of their working conditions, Keel’s report is blunt when it comes to the number one thing cops need to solve killings — an aspect desperately lacking in the city when one considers the most recent unsolved murders in Winnipeg.
When questioned about the biggest barrier to achieving higher homicide clearance rates, one common theme occurred among all ranks: the lack of public/witness cooperation.
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Policing, (internal) politics and public policy

(Arne Peltz is the arbitrator overseeing a police Sergeant's labour dispute)
News flash: The Winnipeg Police Service — with roughly 2,000 employees and multiple divisions, mandates and priorities — is a large bureaucratic work environment that experiences human-resource headaches, policy-wonkery and management-employee conflicts.

Anyone else find the above statement a bit of a truism?

Because, at the end of the day, that’s really what’s being revealed at a Manitoba Labour Board hearing into a dispute between Sgt. James Jewell and WPS management over the so-called “1+1+1” transfer policy brought in a couple of years ago (see footnote).

Jewell’s stated concern — up until recently a supervising officer in the homicide unit — is that a policy of transferring people out of the “high-stakes” unit after a maximum of three years doesn’t meet the needs the complex cases require.

He feels he’s been unfairly punished by being transferred out of the unit for taking his concerns over the heads of his supervisors to the police brass.

His supervisors deny this is the case.

Anyone who has seen a homicide cop undergo cross-examination in a murder trial will understand: Jewell’s point is sound. You have to know your stuff or risk getting torn to shreds.

Some (but not all) homicide cases are complex and require focus, dedication and — as Jewell asserts — experience in homicide investigation to investigate and prosecute successfully.

His superiors suggest that’s not necessarily the case.

“To get good at homicide, you’ve got to know homicide, correct?,” Jewell’s lawyer, Keith LaBossiere asked Staff Sgt. Mike Stephens on Friday.

“I don’t draw the parallel, I’m sorry,” Stephens replied.

I won’t go into much greater detail about the Labour Board hearing so far, as it’s really Mike McIntyre and the Free Press’ baby (Links here, here, here and here).

I attended yesterday afternoon strictly out of interest as a private citizen (but reserved the right to blog on what I took away from it).

I wrote about the transfer policy for the Free Press in 2009, when the service was drafting it.

Much of what’s been revealed at the current hearing echoes concerns raised by the police union (actually a bargaining association) at the time.

But setting aside the stated concerns about the policy  for just a sec, there is another side to it.

My limited understanding of the need for the term limits (from the executive’s perspective) was that it was to ensure front-line, street level operations and officers have veteran guidance as new officers come on to the force and do their mandatory general patrol time.

From a core public-safety position, that seems and sounds reasonable.

But at issue really here is how, (as stated above), there’s a steep learning curve for murder police, and it’s not much of a leap to believe having them come and go from the unit too quickly can reduce institutional knowledge and case continuity as well as the mentoring of new investigators. That can be said to have a negative influence on the goal: public safety and enforcement of the law. Nobody wants murderers walking the streets.

A thought experiment: Imagine if the Free Press decided to move McIntyre out of the courthouse and put a GA reporter (not an inexperienced one, but one lacking systemic knowledge) there. There’s no doubt that over time, the newbie would ‘get it,’ but you hire a McIntyre, see his skills and keep him there for a reason. Simply put: He’s learned the ropes, produces original stuff and it just seemingly wouldn’t make sense to lose his experience in that genre in a high-stakes media landscape.

[UPDATE, Monday July 11: After thinking about this further, a glaring omission struck me that I should have mentioned — The key difference is that reporters don’t solve serious violent crimes, nor typically risk their lives. There are naturally rare exceptions, but…]

But — a conjunction which segues into the point I wish to make: like it or lump it, there’s a caveat when you don’t sign your own paycheques.

Management reserves the right to…

There’s two competing sides that I can articulate at this time: One faction says the WPS brass is hampering its core public-safety goal through its own internal policy. The other suggests new direction is needed; that other priorities — AKA building for the future — are at play here, that like any corporation or bureaucracy, those who run it have to have the discretion to make changes as they see fit.

In other words, a rock and a hard place. For all involved. No matter how this plays out, it’s hard to say if there’s a way of seeing if there will be a clear “winner” or “loser.”

Naturally, at issue in Jewell’s case is whether he was treated fairly in the circumstances.

A final note:

I’d suspect there’s an uneasy feeling on the fifth floor of the PSB given the details about the internal operations of homicide and HR activities being revealed at the MLB hearing.

For years, the force has taken great lengths to try and ensure the internal operations of the WPS stay on the down-low, that its public messaging stays focused. And yes, that access to such internal information often be denied.

But what we’ve seen over the last week is that there’s been no great calamity because the public got a glimpse of how the quote-unquote elite homicide unit operates, that there’s fraction and friction and internal conflict and politics at play.

In my personal view, it has served as a reminder that the cop you see on the street, the one that may be your neighbour or fishing buddy, faces the same workplace frustrations as virtually all citizens who work for someone else do.

In effect, it’s been terribly humanizing.

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Footnote:

In Division 40 – WPS policy states there are maximum assignment lengths of:

Constable — three years (one year guaranteed and each of the other two years reviewable each year)

Det. Sergeants — four years maximum.

Most if not all, when assigned to the division, stay for the maximum allotment without being transferred out at the direction of the management.


Joe McNabb and her rehab plan

Evaristo Caniuman

So, Joseph McNabb is back behind bars, just 10 days after she was freed from jail with a time-served sentence of two years jail [one year at double-credit] along three years probation for attempting to rob an injured Evaristo Caniuman in a West End street a couple of years back.

McNabb, who is transgendered and identifies as a female, seemed to have a lot more going for her than a lot of other offenders.

Mostly, she had a place to go [The Elisabeth Fry society transition home] when she got out 11 days ago.

At least some support was there for her. As it has seemingly been through her bail hearings, her prelim, her trial and sentencing.

But by my reading of her new charges, McNabb didn’t even bother to show up at Elisabeth Fry, instead going AWOL for about 10 days, or so the allegation goes.

She was arrested on Garry Street yesterday afternoon.

Probation officers applied for a warrant on the 15th of June after McNabb failed to report to them a day earlier.

Nobody knew where she went off to.

If she’s convicted of the two new breaches she’s facing, that will make 21 court-order breach convictions in her 29-year-lifetime.

While on bail awaiting trial for the killing of Caniuman — she was ultimately found not guilty of manslaughter — she breached court conditions twice, prompting her rearrest.

Those breaches led to a seemingly monumental Winnipeg Police Service press statement that appeared to take aim at the court system and bail conditions.

No one knows why the WPS came out and said it, but here it is for the record:

Homicide Re-arrest

As previously released, on April 10th, 2009, at approximately 6:00 p.m., uniformed members were dispatched to the area of Sargent Avenue and Young Street regarding a male being assaulted.

It is alleged that a twenty-seven year old male confronted a 60 year old male and began to assault him to the upper body. The victim was subsequently pushed to the ground at which time the assault continued. Upon arriving, officers located both males.

The suspect was taken into custody. The victim, identified as Evaristo CANIUMAN was conveyed to hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

Twenty-seven year old Joseph William MCNABB of Winnipeg has been charged with Manslaughter.

On August 31, 2009 MCNABB was released by the Courts. Since his release MCNABB has failed to comply with conditions of his release on two occasions.

On January 10, 2010 MCNABB failed to comply with conditions of his Recognizance and was subsequently arrested by police.

On April 13, 2010 was once again released by the courts.

On August 23, 2010, MCNABB failed to comply with conditions of his Recognizance and a Warrant was issued for his arrest.

On August 24, 2010, MCNABB was located and arrested in the downtown area.

He has been detained in custody.

It’s important to note that at sentencing, McNabb faced a Crown who seemed adamant she should serve as long as three years for the attempted robbery, based largely on her past breach convictions.

The judge, however, didn’t buy it. He said efforts to rehabilitate her were in the best interest of society and her own.

Her own, extremely able, lawyers argued that the bulk of her remand time at the Winnipeg Remand Centre was spent in isolated, horrible conditions, marred by ridicule and scorn from other inmates and the occasional corrections officer.

But I have only one question.

If it was that bad, how did she ever wind up there again?

UPDATE:

Here’s the link to Justice Hanssen’s decision on sentencing

Here’s the link to Justice Hanssen’s decision on conviction

Daniel Wolfe and the street gang ethos

(newstalk 680/RCMP)

If you haven’t read Joe Friesen’s article on the late Daniel Wolfe and the Indian Posse featured in Saturday’s Globe and Mail, I’d highly recommend it.

It’s carefully researched, and Friesen talks to the right people — including Wolff’s brother, Richard, one of the founders of the street gang — and the story come alive because of it. Not to mention the references to Wolfe’s letters from jail, where he spent a fair amount of time prior to being killed there last year after being handed five life sentences for a deadly home invasion in Saskatchewan.

As always, the comments section is revealing, with Friesen taking flak from some who contend the ambitious article borders on the sentimental.

Wolff was a stone-cold killer. There’s no doubt about it. But what Friesen shows is that there’s a kind of method to Wolfe’s madness, a steely pseudo-logic born from life on the street and not from the book.

And that is likely reason number one why the IP and other similar gangs most likely won’t ever achieve the kind of “sophistication” (to use the oft-used policing term) that could see them rise out of the gutter.

In a way, that the gang’s inability to pull itself up by the bootstraps is referred to as “puzzling” is puzzling in itself.

It’s not hard to figure out.

Here’s a clip:

But police say one of the puzzling aspects of the IP has been its inability to develop the more sophisticated techniques of traditional organized crime.

“There’s no discipline to save cash and accrue assets. No education to rely on for cash management,” says Sergeant Mike MacKinnon of Winnipeg’s organized-crime unit. “You might pull them over and they’ll have $10,000 or $15,000 on them, but at the end of the day that’s money already spent. … We haven’t seen anyone moving up into buying large condos or anything like that. They still live in the neighbourhoods they always lived in.”

Richard, who left the gang years ago, is quiet when asked where all the money went. Is there a Swiss bank account? He chuckles.

He says they used to talk about investing in youngsters who could go to university and infiltrate the police force and the Crown’s office. As with many organizations, recruiting and promoting the right people was a challenge. Daniel was one of the gang’s top recruiters, but he complained in a prison letter to Richard in 2000 that there were “too many fucked-up people recruiting fucked-up people.”

—————————–From Joe Friesen’s The Ballad of Daniel Wolfe, page 3 (bolded line, emphasis mine because that’s totally interesting)

No discipline, no education, no plan. Just rep and cred. Hustle and be fierce. And that’s any street gang’s real problem.

One of MacKinnon’s colleagues said to me one day that for many so-called “sophisticated” organized crime groups, the credo could be described as:

If it doesn’t make money, it doesn’t make sense.

What I took this to mean is, if there’s nothing financial to be gained by shooting, maiming or intimidating someone, you generally — generally — don’t waste your time on it. It attracts much unwanted attention when people start getting hurt.

To paraphrase D’Angelo Barksdale (or was it Bodie Broadus?), characters from HBO’s The Wire: The police, loosely speaking, don’t care all that much if people buy drugs and get high.

They really care when people start getting dead. Especially people not ‘in the game,’ as it were.

Therein lies the paradox of the street gang.

You have to hurt others to demonstrate your power but in doing so you ultimately show weakness.

Thanks, Joe Friesen.

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Pushing the dreaded ‘red dot’ around

(Winnipeg Police Service)

Maps depict incidents of: Assault, Asst. w/ weapon, sexual assault, fighting, gun seen, gun known, shots fired, gunshot wound, robberies and stabbing reports

(Assumption is the demarcation colours hold true today)

Violent Crime Hotspots March 29, 2008 to March 28, 2009 (1 year)

High intensity (over 1,400 dispatched events) zones along Main near Burrows and In the Central Park Area (that disperses in all directions)

Zones of Concern (no fewer than 1,100 dispatched events) at Higgins and Main and along Portage near Portage Place Mall.

Map 2: 

Violent Crime Hotspots March 29, 2009 to March 28, 2010 (1 year)

– High intensity  zones at Main and Henry, and along Portage near Portage Place Mall.

Zones of Concern in Central Park and along Main to about Euclid and Main at Henry.

What do the maps appear to say?

  • Police-reported violence in Central Park appears to be on the wane
  • The area around Portage Place has become more violent
  • Suggests there’s a contradiction in the current of opinion that states safety downtown is a matter of perception, not reality
  • Some of the violence plaguing north main past the Higgins underpass appears to have migrated south to the area near the Sally Ann and the new WRHA building
  • The CCTV camera at Main and Henry appears to be to one most likely to catch criminal activity
  • There’s a growing pocket of crime a block or so south of Salter near Manitoba and Magnus

These maps were embedded in a report on the effectiveness of the WPS’ crime camera pilot project. You can read about what it says here.

The precis version is that technological hiccups may have limited how effective the cameras can be, and there’s [apparently] no conviction results yet (from 2009? really?) to measure if the footage is holding up in court.

The tech. problems prompted State of the City to sagely ask: ” I also don’t get how (police) became responsible for tech risk & maintenance costs in the 1st place.”