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.