Neighbourhoods in decline and street gangs have been a bit of a theme I’ve been working on lately.
During the research phase for a story I wrote recently (Gangs & Hope Community Forum), I ventured into the gang infested territory where Winnipeg resident Nigel Dixon was recently killed in a hail of indiscriminate gunfire. His female companion also suffered gun shot wounds but somehow managed to avoid the same fate.
My purpose was to take photographic evidence of gang tags previously sealed off from reporters view by Police crime scene guards and yellow tape. Street gang investigators will tell you that gang tags are serious business. They’re intended to send strong messages to rival gangs, police and the community at large. Messages claiming territorial boundaries or “turf.” Gang tags are symbols of power and status.
I’ve always said gang tags are a window into the minds of the street thugs who represent street gangs. They’re excellent gauges that should be read and interpreted to determine “the temperature” out on the streets. Gang experts will tell you failure to remove such symbols can lead to heightened gang tension and the degradation of neighborhoods, not to mention the devaluation of property and reinforcement of fear in the community.
As I walked down the back lanes taking photo’s of the plentiful gang graffiti I was struck by a more subtle part of the story.
$hit, I thought, this neighborhood looks like it and even smells like it. It’s clear the progressive new roll out garbage and recycle bins are not working in this neighbourhood. When you think about it, it’s hard to believe that possibility wasn’t anticipated by the decision makers responsible for the program. Auto bins work for me and my neighbours but they don’t roll themselves out to the street on collection day.
Many of the auto bins I saw were stuffed full and over flowing with garbage that had been there for weeks or longer. Garbage bins fused into snow banks that haven’t moved for months. The amount of garbage I saw in a one block radius was troubling. More troubling, it doesn’t seem like anyone plans on taking responsibility for the problem.
If failing to remove gang tags leads to the degradation of a neighborhood, what does the failure to remove garbage do?
This kind of garbage promotes unsanitary conditions that attracts disease carrying rodents and nuisance pests like skunks and raccoons. The gang tags, overflowing garbage cans and refuse filled back lanes send a message to the people who live in this Community. That message is one of failure and abandonment.
If the City of Winnipeg is serious about reducing crime and losing unflattering designations from Stats Canada then they have to start getting serious about taking back the streets of our City. That multi faceted approach has to include a concerted effort to lose the gang tags and garbage that’s currently littering our streets and back lanes.
Lest we forget, decent people trying to raise children live in these neighbourhoods.
WPS Chief Devon Clunis is steadfast in his belief that we can reduce crime through social development. It seems to me it might be hard to promote “social development” in neighborhoods that are drowning in a sea of garbage.
In an ironic twist, after I wrote my story I saw a Winnipeg Sun “tweet” that reported “City can’t wait to make you pay for messy yard, and neighbours are more likely than ever to call bylaw cops.”
I was amused when I read the article and noted that Sel Burrows shared his opinion that cleaner neighbourhoods attract less crime and give criminals and gangsters fewer opportunities to exploit abandoned homes. “If your community looks like a slum, it gets treated like a slum,” he said.
I rest my case.
Before the City starts blitzing citizens with bylaw offence notices, they might want to consider cleaning up their own back yard. Seems like it might be time for a few Political leaders to fire up some pick up trucks, knock on some doors and mobilize the community.
The area in question is in the Daniel McIntyre Ward, Councillor Harvey Smith, ph: 204-986-5951.
LINK: Councillor Harvey Smith