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.
The A4-A5 spread in Friday’s Winnipeg Free Press is worth reading, and re-reading, and then reading again.
First, with the civic election now over, the focus now shifts to the upcoming federal byelection in Winnipeg North.
As it was in the municipal contest, crime appears to lead the debate in the area, just in a more oblique and less tangible way. The recent shootings that claimed two lives is the hook.
Crime top-of-mind in Winnipeg North
Mia Rabson quotes CrimeStat stats that state in the last month alone (taken to mean Sept 29 to Oct 29 2010) the riding has been “the site of at least three slayings, more than a dozen sexual assaults, several shootings and countless robberies and assaults.”
Remember: the Winnipeg North riding is not the same as the electoral ward of Mynarski or North Point Douglas. [Map provided, click to enlarge] Crime Stat won’t measure by anything other than police district, electoral ward or precise neighbourhood. Neither does the public view of CrimeStat denote assaults.
The federal catchment area is huge, much larger than what we’d consider the North End.
“The riding includes the neighbourhoods of Jefferson North, Mandalay West, Maple Glen, Garden City, Jefferson, St. John’s, Inkster Faraday, William Whyte, Dufferin, North End, Burrows Central, Robertson, Selkirk, Mynarski, Northwood,Shaughnessy Heights, Lord, Tyndall Park, Garden Grove, Oak Point, Inkster Gardens, Luxton, the south part of The Maples and the north part of Logan CPR in the City of Winnipeg.”‘
But for the purposes of this article, we’ll tabulate the available police-provided stats (homicides, shootings, sex assaults, robberies) from the following defined neighbourhoods: St John’s, Burrows Central, Lord Selkirk Park, Inkster Faraday and William Whyte.
These make up the big bad North End most people would refer to in terms of the “crime-riddled North End.”
The 30 days of data that was available to people via CrimeStat for the last month from today stemmed from Sept. 28 to Oct. 27, 2010.
St. Johns: 1 homicide, 7 robberies, 3 sex assaults, 0 shootings
William Whyte: 1 homicide, 10 robberies, 1 sex assault, 0 shootings
Robertson: 0 homicides, 1 robbery, 0 sex assault, 0 shootings
Lord Selkirk Park: 0 homicides, 7 robberies, 1 sex assault, 0 shootings
Inkster Faraday: 0, 0, 0, 0 in all categories
Total: 0 homicides, 25 robberies, 1 sex assault, 5 shootings
So, from this, we see that for this 30-day period, crime appears slightly up year over year, but realistically, not up by much. Shootings are down; robberies are statistically at the same level. The rise in sexual assaults, however, is concerning.
So, we have a scary scenario that plays out last Saturday. Three shootings — two fatal— happen within about a 35 minute span. The assumption being made (see page A5 of today’s WFP) is that a single individual (either masked or in a ninja costume) was behind all three.
Police haven’t said as much and are wisely keeping their options open.
Anyhow, despite a jarring and unprecedented warning from the WPS for people in the area to remain in their homes and not answer their doors to strangers directly after the shootings, police quickly locked down the crime scenes and flooded the area with officers.
A mobile command centre is set up in the area a day and half later.
Over the next few days — continuing as I write this — there are scores of police officers in the North End proper, either shaking down potential suspects, scouring for leads in the shootings or otherwise keeping a lid on things.
So, naturally, given the heightened level of police presence and vigilance [more officers = greater safety, remember ; ) ] My eyebrows raised up when I read, re-read and read again the remarks made by would-be NDP MP Kevin Chief in Rabson’s article:
Chief knows first-hand what crime has done to the neighbourhoods of Winnipeg North, where he has lived all his life.
“I live three streets over from one of the (shootings),” he said.
Chief and his wife welcomed their first child three weeks ago, but despite some pleasant weather since, they haven’t taken their son out in the stroller for a walk.
“There is no way we’re taking our son for a walk in these circumstances,” said Chief.
Chief said there are things that can be done immediately, like improved street lighting and a heightened police presence.
For a week, police have been crawling all over the area. On the scanner, every two seconds they seem to be spot-checking people, responding to calls.
Chief says he has lived in the area all his life.
Is it a surprise to him that statistically, the level of crime hasn’t changed in two years — and it could even be said it’s dropped in terms of the number of shootings.
But a man who wants to be an elected member of the federal government — wants to lead and represent people who live in a very troubled area — says the current “circumstances” are keeping him and his family indoors. He wouldn’t dare head outside.
To me, that’s got me scratching my head.
The message from leaders, (would-be or elected) should be:
We’re not going to let the thugs, the degenerates and the reprobates keep us cowering inside or homes. We’re going to rise up and start calling police, the powerline — whatever — if we’re seeing suspicious stuff or crimes taking place.
‘The police are doing their part, now we can do ours,‘ is what I’d be expecting to hear if I was voter in the area.
The last lines of the article also had me scratching my head, but a slight smile on my lips.
Conservative candidate Julie Javier was canvassing Thursday and could not be reached for an interview.