‘THE ROADMAP’ — notes on the WPS strategic plan, part 1

(Winnipeg Police Service)Preface: It must be said from the get-go. You can’t drop a 44-page report filled with charts stats, graphs and policy goals on (most, not all) people and expect them to be able to ask meaningful questions about it without having had a chance to read and absorb it. Full stop. 

An embargo period of an hour or two would have been a welcome gesture. 

Just saying.

Am I exposing myself as not-too-bright by saying so? So be it. 

To my knowledge, at the time the WPS held the press conference to announce and discuss their ‘Roadmap’ strategic plan yesterday, (link below) not one of the roughly 10-12 reporters (including camera ops) in the room had seen nor read its contents. 

ED’s Note: I started this post out in hopes of pulling apart pieces of the plan, but after articles here and here, I’m just gonna say my own IMO bit and get it over with.

(Those who criticized the reporters for not asking tough questions, see preface to this post.)

 

First off: Kudos to the chief for keeping his promise, despite the delays since the crime-reduction targets subject came up in April/May.

While many, and probably rightly so, can and will lament the modesty of the stated reduction goals, they’re bare minimums. The hope is they’ll come down even more.

Downtown needs work. The perception of downtown even more so. That’s abundantly clear.

There’s some interesting features in the sections of the report not related to public-safety goals that will have a huge impact on the force.

1] Major Case Management: Next year, the WPS aims to test out a new computer reporting and filing process that will likely bring the major crimes, OCU and homicide squad fully into the 21st Century from a technology POV. More on this to come. Better tracking of reports and files for complex cases. A good thing. This may dovetail with the ongoing effort to provide electronic disclosure for court purposes.

2] A Crime-free multi housing program. We’re going to hear much, much more about this in coming months. Currently, high-level meetings are taking place between police, justice and public health officials (and likely MLCC peeps) to talk issues relating to MUD’s — multi unit dwellings. My sense of it is that housing complexes (y’know, where people ‘socialize’) have been identified as a key area to target in hopes of reducing the violent crime rate.

3] Social media: The WPS tacitly acknowledges that Twitter and Facebook can be leveraged to great gain. However, the service plans to spend 2012 determining “our current and future opportunities” and not move towards integration of social media into their PIO strategy until 2013 at least. IMO: Way too late. Wayyy too late. Next year, policy guidelines for use of social media by officers and civilians in the WPS will be drawn up.

4] New internal discipline procedure (implemented in 2013): “Employ education-based discipline.” Hmm. I’ll reserve comment for now. Since the public knows so little about the current internal discipline regime, It’s hard to be fair in evaluating what ‘education-based’ discipline means.

5] Civilianizing positions currently held by officers. This could be huge, and save the city a bunch of bucks in the long run. My understanding is that there’s a hiring freeze on civilian police positions currently in place that — if the plan goes forward as, er, planned, will end as of 2013 as the goal of moving more uniformed officers off of desks takes shape.

Those are things that strike me as noteworthy on the surface. )

Now: For people getting on the case of police brass for the substance of the plan and how long it’s taken to get such a document out to the public, I’d remind them of a few things:

1] Since McCaskill took the chief’s job, there’s been a number of new and positive things happening on his watch: Number one, police cadets. Number two, community support units in the districts to tackle area-specific crime investigations. Number 3: Report cars to tackle non-emergency calls and free up cars for service. Four: the hiring of Crime Analysts to drill down into data and reports and make connections about crime trends that aren’t always immediately apparent. This list isn’t comprehensive, but just what pops to mind.

There’s been some setbacks too: Problems in the 911 call centre, a lack of focus on traffic enforcement and initiatives to make city streets safer, criticism for allegedly blowing off downtown safety issues, technology glitches. Lack of a defined strategic plan and process for the last 15 years.

And, perhaps most importantly: A high violent crime rate that the cops didn’t create in the first place but are tasked with cleaning up.

At the end of the day, no booklet of bureaucratic plans is going to fix everything the city ails from, crime-wise. I commend the department for releasing the document, regardless if it’s a little lacking on substantive details.

It’s unfair to expect the WPS to have all the answers.

However, it’s equally unfair for the department to ever seem puzzled that the public would ever question police priorities, plans, motives and operations. In this day and age, “trust us” just isn’t a valid response.

Hopefully the Roadmap will help allay fears and criticism that the WPS is too reactive and too secretive.

Got a question over the Twitter yesterday about a comment McCaskill made about a “crime czar” position in the city. He was responding to a Stacey Ashley question about innovation.

Here’s what he said, FTR:

“And this is something I believe Edmonton is doing a little bit of something about, and that term is mine, basically.

But — an administrator that can look at different types of thins that are happening in the community where police and other departments can feed that information and be more concentrated in a certain direction. Edmonton’s doing some of it, apparently.

There’s other documentation on how do you, how do you focus resources in a more effective way by utilizing not only city departments but other NGO’s and so on to be able to have a concentrated effort on fighting crime in other areas. That’s really … that’s something we’re looking at.”

When Stats Can released its latest Juristat numbers declaring Manitoba as the Crime Cap, Rick Linden made some interesting comments in an interview I did with him:

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.

It’s pretty clear that if we’re going to dig ourselves out of the crime mess we’re seemingly always in, we need to innovate.

I, for one, would be very interested to see Linden’s idea take shape — and it looks as if the WPS may be too.

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The silence is deafening

Let’s say for the sake of argument I’m a city councillor in Point Douglas, Old Kildonan or the Mynarski ward in Winnipeg.

Let’s also say that once a month or so, I’m responsible for sitting on a committee at city hall where people come forward to present problems, update me on situations and make presentations to me — giving me the chance to ask for feedback and to probe deeper into what’s actually going on in my ward.

Sometimes, even police officials turn up to talk about crime and what the Winnipeg Police Service is doing about it.

Given the high-profile nature of crime in the area in recent weeks, what with three unsolved slayings and four unsolved “random” sexual assaults, a handful of home invasions and other assorted mayhem— in the Mynarski ward especially — I’d likely have some questions about police enforcement, right?

Well, no — at least not in Winnipeg, it seems.

Today, the man in charge of policing the crime-riddled North End — Insp. Brian Cyncora — appeared before the Lord Selkirk community committee to present on — and answer questions about — the area’s crime issues.

I’m sure he came in wondering if his head would be pounding by the time he was done.

He need not have worried.

Not one of the three councillors on the committee had a substantive question for the veteran, well-educated officer, despite the recent mayhem — and despite the fact that if anyone knows anything about crime in the North End, he’d be the guy who likely knows and should be able to offer an answer.

Cyncora realistically talked about the “significant challenges” police in the area face (and stated have faced over the last two years), along with the local citizenry’s historical lack of trust of the WPS that he’s been trying to win back.

“I’m out there in the front,” he said. “Historically, we’ve lost a lot of trust in the community,” he said.

He talked about the efforts the department has been making to bolster “crime prevention through social development.”

Cyncora talked about the merits and expansion of a hockey program for inner-city youth that the WPS has undertaken. He also spoke of reaching out to other area social leaders in hopes of expanding crime-prevention plans. No specifics.

He talked about enforcement: about the fact that there are three unsolved homicides (he used the word murders) — two that sparked a massive police response — and said that a special detail, dubbed Project Guardian, has been set up to gather leads and tips and follow up on them in relation to the killings.

Cyncora didn’t elaborate on the nature of the project or offer much insight into how successful it’s been so far.

But then, nobody in a position to ask, asked.

The investigation has uncovered many tips, he said, but there’s been nothing conclusive.

“We need them, we need the community to help us,” he said.

Not one of the councillors asked Cyncora to elaborate on a single word he said.

Not one of the three asked about the recent sexual assaults or Tuesday’s home invasion. Not one asked if there was something they could do to further police efforts, or how the force is measuring its progress in the area.

What were the recently (re) elected area councillors’ major concerns, you may ask?

Cyncora was asked only about the incoming police cadets, and whether they’d be used in his district.

Officially, they’re just fresh into field training and are being supervised by a senior officer.

However, The WPS brass hasn’t yet shared the deployment plans for the new, blue-shirted cadets in terms of how they’ll fit into North End, Cyncora said.

Despite the fact there’s no plan in place yet to say how they’ll be used in his area, rookie Coun. Ross Eadie pondered aloud about the possibility the cadets may be too “aggressive” in the conduct of their duties in the most hard-core crime area of town.

He wondered if the cadets would have enough life experience to be able to handle what they’d see and do working in the area.

But, Cyncora said, they won’t be viewed as police officers, and will “not be confrontational or aggressive.”

He struck me as a police official who was kind of hoping someone would ask him a question that mattered.

Too bad not one of the area councillors could be bothered to do so.

Full audio of Cyncora’s statements to the committee below.

[AUDIO http://ia600302.us.archive.org/26/items/LordSelkirkCommunityCommittee231110/Cyncora.mp3%5D

[ADDENDUM] John Dobbin writes:

“At the very least, councillors should have been asking if the forensic evidence led them to conclude there was three shooters or just one. Or is that giving away too much?”

Good question, John, how about also:

“What is the status of the mobile command unit? Is it still present in the area?”

“You talk about ‘significant challenges’ — what exactly does that mean?”

“Why do you single out the last two years as being particularly challenging for police in the North End?”

“What are some things we, as councillors, could be doing that may make a difference to the WPS’ efforts?”

[ADDENDUM 2] More questions left unasked are posed in the most recent post on the A Day in The Hood blog:

I went for a walk today, on my own. This was the first time I have ventured more than a block from my home on foot alone since the shootings in October. The shootings are no longer a topic of news, and are drifting from peoples memories.
I have tried to get back to normal, but things kept happening.
A few days after the murders, there was the sound of a shot gun coming from behind my house, somewhere in the back lane, or very close. Then I watched a person steal a car, right in front of my window. And there were the other actions occurring within view of my house. Then last week I had an unfortunate encounter with a person on a bicycle. I have been looking at bicycles along the side streets of the North End in a different light since the murders. I remember the Police said the individual or individuals doing the shootings were seen traveling by bicycle.

North End sex attacks

As noted: there’s been another seemingly random sexual assault in the North End.

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/Sexual-assault-suspect-sought-109680614.html

This would be the fifth in the city – the fourth in the area – in the last month or so that police have reported on.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2010/11/04/man-sex-assault-winnipeg.html

The only upshot – if it could be considered one – is that by the sounds of it, it’s not the same suspect.

But still, police are reporting these attacks and never providing updates to them.

Maybe they should start to.

Another drip in the kitchen sink

(Underground Gym website)

A Thunder Bay-based charity that provides recreation and other aid programs for at-risk youth could be coming soon to one of Winnipeg’s hardest areas.

The Underground Gym and Youth Centre is asking the city for “$83,200.00 to assist with operating costs associated with community development and recreation programs to serve the needs of youths at risk at a gym and youth centre which the Centre wishes to establish in Winnipeg.”

(Google maps)

The centre would be located at 431-435 Selkirk Avenue. In the picture, it looks as if it would be the buildings right next to the food mart.

Guided by the motto: “Once a member, always a member,” the organizers say they provide “free access to multiple activities for youth in need” ages 4-17. The Ontario location is co-ed.

Unlike the incoming multi-million dollar Youth for Christ centre that is set to open at Main and Higgins, The organizers don’t appear to have an ideological or religious bent.

(Letter to city from Peter Panetta)

With a track record stretching back to 1999 in Thunder Bay, the director, Peter Panetta says they’ve had great success keeping kids from “the wrong path.” (see attached letter).

All I can say is this: if the organization checks out, it’s another drip in the “kitchen sink” philosophy for crime prevention a famous local blogger has written about much more eloquently than I could.

The city will make an initial decision on whether to give the group its ask on Nov. 23.

Why aren’t more local agencies trying to do this in this area? I’d imagine it would be more the merrier.

I’ve put a message in to speak with Panetta. We’ll see if he calls back.

[UPDATE] He did call back. Seemed like a fairly no-nonsense, straight shooting guy:

Panetta tells me he’s a boxing coach who works for Canada Post full time in Thunder Bay. The Winnipeg facility will be run by his adult kids, he says.

It’s non-denominational and non-profit, he said.

“I’ve never taken a penny for what I’m doing,” Panetta said.

Interesting how in this article he talks about the financial challenges he faces in Ontario — and how Winnipeg’s problems are migrating there.

Tells me his relationship with city hall in TB has had its “ups and downs,” which got sorted out when he found private funding.

Interestingly, he tells me, the genesis of the idea for the Winnipeg gym stemmed from Winnipeg kids filtering into the centre in TB who would talk about the area.

I asked him if he had much experience or knowledge about the Selkirk Avenue area, and he admitted the entrenched gang problems in the North End have been raised with him.

“The gangs … it will be a challenge, do doubt — but once the concept takes hold, it should be OK.”

Says the TB centre is in a rougher area but admits its not the same as what he’s heard about the 204.

“We’re not as hard core as Winnipeg,” he said.

He’s coming to Winnipeg on Monday to prepare for the Tuesday meeting. Says he’s spoken “indirectly” to Sam Katz about the proposal. Katz seemed “all for it,” he said, but says he’s committed to following proper process to try and get the grant.

Simpleton math (I have no head for numbers)

Let’s say for the sake of argument that the city approves the gym’s $83,200 and sets up shop in the North End and begins working with kids. How much of a savings would that represent to the criminal justice system just in terms of wages paid to police, prosecutors etc?

Assuming the gym keeps 25 kids from committing a crime for which they’re arrested and not diverted away from the system, ultimately convicted and given a probation order:

(Yes, I know. I'm no economist or statistician. Just a dumb reporter)

Here’s what I come up with (in graph).

Just preventing 25 kids from committing 1 mildly serious crime — say it’s a theft under charge or whatever — “saves” $27,150.

If it’s 100 kids? More than $108,000.

Now, I realize this is simplistic because in reality the savings aren’t seen in real dollars, but it’s worth considering.

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Peace, order and good government

Kevin Chief, running for the NDP in Winnipeg North

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.”

Winnipeg North Riding, C/O Elections Canada

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
  • Burrows Central: 0 homicides, 3 robberies, 0 sex assaults, 0 shootings
  • Lord Selkirk Park: 0 homicides, 3 robberies, 0 sex assaults, 1 shooting
  • Inkster Faraday: 0 homicides, 4 robberies, 0 sex assaults, 1 shooting

Total: 2 homicides (Beardy and MacDonald), 28 robberies, 4 sex assaults, 2 shootings

A year earlier, same period:

  • St. Johns: 0 homicides, 2 robberies, 0 sex assault, 0 shootings
  • William Whyte: 0 homicides, 13 robberies, 0 sex assaults, 5 shootings
  • Robertson: 0 homicides, 2 robberies, 0 sex assault, 0 shootings
  • Burrows Central: 0 homicides, 0 robberies, 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.

Saturday Shootings map

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.

Nice to know not everyone’s afraid to go outside.

Chief’s right about the lighting, tho.

“Not a crime disaster”

Good, workmanlike article about the Mynarski ward and crime from Rob Brown at the weeklies.

At the bottom:

Candidate Ross Eadie said less bureaucracy, not necessarily more cops, is needed to address the crime issue.

The North End is not a crime disaster, and neighbourhood police should be deciding where they are needed the most,” he said, adding that the Winnipeg Police Service should release more statistics on violent crimes to members of the public.

Don’t know about you, but there’s few other areas of the city where a 21-year-old mom can get shot and killed on her way to her car outside a reputed gang hangout and it barely raises a peep out of the “leadership” — or anyone else for that matter— in Winnipeg.

Phil Haiart, the son of a city doctor, was shot and killed crossing the street in the West End on Oct. 10, 2005.

By Oct. 13, there were screaming headlines like this one:

Will Phillipe’s killing be last straw?

and:

Teen’s death ‘call to arms’

By Oct. 14, the police service was weighing in:

Courts too soft, Ewatski warns

Coun. Russ Wyatt attempts to hold a public meeting of council to have a frank public discussion about drugs, crime and gangs in Winnipeg. He’s accused of grandstanding on the back of a tragedy and the meeting request is shot down.

One week after Haiart’s killing, we start to see:

City heeds ‘call to arms’

Winnipeg Free Press
Tue Oct 18 2005
Page: A1
Section: City
Byline: Bill Redekop

WINNIPEGGERS came together on several fronts yesterday to demand changes to conditions that led to last week’s death of an innocent 17-year-old bystander caught in a gang gunfight.

They seemed to have heard the “call to arms” that Philippe Haiart’s friends and family said his death represented.

At 3 p.m., Winnipeg Police Insp. Boyd Campbell received news that eight of 23 police graduates will be assigned to his inner city precinct, where Haiart’s shooting occurred, starting in two weeks.

Then, the next day:

A chance to voice our shared disgust over gang violence

Headlines like this continued for about 2 weeks (see above Re: police officers) and then:

‘In-your-face’ blitz unveiled

Winnipeg Free Press
Wed Oct 26 2005
Page: A1
Section: City
Byline: Bruce Owen

MAYOR Sam Katz and Police Chief Jack Ewatski teamed up yesterday to “take back our streets” with a blitz involving 45 police officers.

They announced Operation Clean Sweep and warned “in-your-face-policing” will target gangs, prostitution and drugs.

“We don’t need an ivory-tower policy discussion,” Katz said at an outdoor news conference at Langside Street and Sargent Avenue, near the site where St. John’s-Ravenscourt School graduate Philippe Haiart, 17, was killed by gang fire on Oct. 10.

And “operation clean sweep” was born, and would live on as a hallmark moment for policing and public safety in Winnipeg.

But three days after Tiffany Johnson was gunned down, there’s no evidence of a start to such a buildup or angry condemnation of what happened to her, except maybe from the police service.

And I mean from everyone: The community, the media, the politicians and the police service.

I suppose I just wonder why.

Is it that North End crime has become so ingrained in our minds that we — all of us — just look the other way?

Usually one can’t take one’s eyes off a disaster. Maybe that means Eadie’s right.

But I don’t think that’s it.

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