No choice but to react

“Today, on many blocks, it is clear the bad guys have won, and the police and the law and peace of a civil society gave up and went home.”

Rob Galston, the Rise and Sprawl

No, that’s not true. At least not in my view.

Realistically, there’s only so many police to go around.

And in the wake of three separate shootings (two of them fatal) in a half hour — on top of all the other usual mayhem — the North End got — and is getting — as much police presence as the force can afford, if not more.

If the sheer presence of police officers made for a safer neighbourhood, then the North End should be one of the safest in North America.

On any given day in Winnipeg, there are more police around there than anywhere else in the city. One needs only to look at a GPS map of where the squad cars are to make that determination.

The Saturday shootings have renewed a call for the return to foot patrols in the area.

While on the surface, this sounds like a great idea, I’d predict there’s little chance the rank-and-file on the service would buy into this.

It’s one thing to cruise around a gun-infested hood in a squad car — entirely another to be walking about on foot, an easy target for armed fools.

Which sort of brings me to my larger point.

Ultimately, police are only as able to keep the peace as much as their jobs and authority are respected by the communities they serve.

I’d submit in all parts of Winnipeg, including the North End, there’s factions who completely lack that respect.

[UPDATE: For an excellent run-down of what life’s like for th average citizen living in the North End, see here]

For various reasons, some deserved, some not.

But, like a snake eating its tail, mistrust and racism and fear curb attempts by both sides to stop the violence.

Same goes for the law of the land. The majority of us know shooting people — under any circumstances — is wrong. Others just don’t seem to care and act out however they want.

There’s no respect there.

No respect for the fact that everyone is supposed to have the right to security of the person, to be able to walk the streets and be unafraid.

Kelcey had a recent blog post about crime prevention, explaining in detail why he favours a “kitchen sink” approach to fighting crime.

I’d suggest you read about how Los Angeles — a city with some very close similarities to the crime problems we have here — is doing what our police chief has been saying he wants to do ever since he was hired: Stop making the police the end-all-be-all solution to the problem. It’s bigger than that.

If we’re gonna fix anything, it starts within each of us.

Not with a helicopter, not with bigger guns, not with tougher laws that criminals just ignore anyways.

Tomorrow we (re)elect a mayor. In some sense, the way the votes swing is like taking the pulse of the city.

Of the two viable candidates running, one says more cops is the answer. In fact that’s pretty much all he’s said in my view. More police = more safety, less gang activity and more toughness.

The other, a career politician, has largely only talked about fixing the so-called “root causes” of crime like poverty, injustice, etc.

We, the voters — if we believe that crime response is an ‘electable’ issue worth getting off the couch for — are being asked to pick between two incomplete options.

Both options, in my view, are unpalatable given the level of violence we’re seeing.

It’s both candidates’ complete and utter lack of creativity that stuns me.

Gonna take back the neighbourhood? Then it’s pretty clear it’s up to us, first.

How do we get started?


BTW Galston, your post was a fantastic read. Thanks.