Call it what you want, the elusive truth, the inconvenient truth or just call it the plain truth.
Winnipeg is not a safe City.
I’m not even sure why the subject is being debated. Statistics Canada should have added some clarity to the issue when they designated our City as the Murder and Violent Crime capital of the Country.
Yet, the debate rages on.
To add to the controversy, spin doctors at City Hall saw fit to create a low tech map, complete with blurred borders and phantom districts and released it to the public proclaiming double-digit reductions in violent crime in the Downtown area. The results immediately called in to question by crime reporters who cite Downtown Biz findings that report a double-digit rise in Downtown crime.
On Tuesday, April 2, 2013, two days before the report was released, Winnipeg resident Nigel Dixon was gunned down in the 500 block of Langside Street in a brazen afternoon shooting perpetrated by indiscriminate gangsters embroiled in a turf war in the area.
On Friday, April 5, 2013, the day after the report was released, a WPS Community alert was issued warning the Public of three (3) sexual assaults and one (1) indecent act in the Downtown Area. On the same alert the WPS reported Patrol Officers arrested of a suspect for an “on view” strong arm robbery that occurred at Graham Ave & Donald Street.
Since then the trend continues, shootings, stabbings and a recent community alert reporting thug (s) running around “central” Winnipeg, (including downtown) doing strong arm robberies and personating Police Officers.
Yet, the debate rages on.
Police Chief Devon Clunis believes he has the answer, “We have to work together to create this culture of safety. We must tackle it from a socially responsible perspective.” These were messages Clunis delivered while speaking at a Building Owners & Management Association luncheon at the Delta Hotel yesterday.
I’ve heard the Clunis message before, “Crime prevention through social development,” is his mantra.
Clunis believes the WPS must be catalysts for social change and he’s committed to this approach. An approach he admits could take between five to ten years to bear fruit.
If you happen to read the comment sections of local newspapers you’ll see many people fear our City simply can’t afford to take a decade to find out if the social experiment Clunis proposes will work. Most commenters believe radical surgery is required to excise the cancerous blight on our crime infested City.
The moderate in me believes both approaches have merit.
For as long as I can remember, Downtown Winnipeg has been a challenged area. It’s always been a hot bed of criminal activity, specifically drug trafficking, petty thefts and strong arm robberies. For me, the game changed in March of 2011 with the murder of twenty-two (22) year old Abdul Jemei who was stabbed to death while walking near the west end of Portage Place.
The investigation provided significant highly credible information that large numbers of armed street thugs frequent the Portage Place Mall carrying everything from firearms to edged weapons to pepper spray. Many of these players are gang affiliates who are involved in the drug trade fighting over, you guessed it, “turf.”
“Turf” is gang vernacular for “territory” and it’s the one thing that gangsters are prepared to kill and die for. For the unfamiliar, the fight to control “turf” does not equate to a soldiers sense of duty to protect his or her homeland. No, this is all about dollar bills and cocaine. He who controls “turf” corners market share and reaps the benefits of the lucrative drug trade.
In July of 2010, eighteen (18) year old Dylan Ferland was gunned down in the North end by two rival street gang members sent on a mission to control “turf.” The case was a text-book example of the Winnipeg street gang hierarchy and how adult gangsters control and manipulate the “child soldiers” they use to work the crack shacks and dispense street justice.
In this case alone, four fifteen (15) year old boys were converted to “child soldiers” by coercion and control methods that included the use of violence, money, debt, sex and crack cocaine.
Most people would agree that run of the mill average middle class teen-aged boys lack maturity, discretion and impulse control. Now imagine exposing impoverished disadvantaged teens to gang rhetoric, the false promise of gang life, crack cocaine, cash money, sex and firearms. The “child soldier” presents a serious threat to the safety of Winnipeg residents and Police Officers alike. They’re armed, dangerous and have little concern for the ramifications of shooting or killing someone. A significant number of these youths end up getting killed or serving life sentences for murder.
Yet, the debate rages on.
The brazen killing of Nigel Dixon is yet another wake up call for all of us. It’s the same message we received from the killings of Anthony Woodhouse, Joseph Mcleod and Phil Haiart.
Now it’s up to us what we do with that message.
Can we get to the promise land with “Crime prevention through social development?”
In isolation, I doubt it.
Confronting this kind of crime requires “intellectual ownership” of the crime problem, a committed tactical plan and boots on the ground to do the heavy lifting.
A whole lot of boots.