Westend Story


A really short play in one Act and one Scene

Act 1, Scene 1   Police officials and the mayor are gathered for a news conference outside the mayor’s office.  Representatives of Winnipeg’s print and electronic media are present to be briefed about recent violence in the West End

Police Public information Officer (shocked):  “We’re shocked.”

Chief of Police (sanctimoniously):  “These things cannot be tolerated.”

Mayor (indignantly):  “The public should be angry.”

Media Person #1              Can you explain to us why it is that you are shocked?  For those of us who follow crime in this city, especially as it affects the West End, what has happened these past days does not seem all that surprising.  Crimes of violence are not unusual in the West End.  How many shootings have there been in District 1 in the 5 month period since January 1st. 2010?

PIO                                         I don’t know off hand but I can get you that information.

Media Person #1              Your Crimestat website indicates 9 shootings since January and that’s up from 2 for the same period the previous year.  In the Daniel McIntyre Ward alone, Crimestat shows 5 shootings for that period – that’s up from 1 the previous year.

Media Person #1              How about muggings and sexual assaults?   Any idea how many of those offenses occurred in the Daniel McIntyre Ward?”

PIO                                         Again, I can get those numbers but off hand I don’t know.  In terms of the Crimestat Management and Accountability System, your questions on that topic should be directed to the Chief of Police.

Media Person #1              I’m starting to feel like I’m performing a public service here.  In any event I have those numbers and am prepared to share them with you if that would be helpful.   The long and the short of it is that there has been an abundance of violent crime in the West End and I’m surprised that you were shocked.

Media Person #1              Let me ask you, Chief: as you sat through the bi-weekly Crimestat meetings for the past 5 months and you saw the crime maps displayed on the screen depicting the  number of shootings and other violent crimes in the west end, did it occur to you that a trend might be developing?

Chief of Police                   Actually, I no longer attend Crimestat meetings.

Media Person #1              Fair enough, did your Deputy Chiefs report back to you on what was happening in the West End?

Chief of Police                   Actually they don’t regularly attend Crimestat meetings either.

Media Person #1 (shocked)              Surely, someone must have reported back to you about the violence in the West end as the crime maps went up on the screen week after week?

Chief of Police                   I have been told we no longer display crime maps at Crimestat meetings.

Media Person #1              That is something I would be interested in discussing with you at length.

Chief of Police                   Perhaps some other time.  This is not the time or place for that discussion.

Media Person#2               Chief, you indicated that what is happening in the West End ‘cannot be tolerated’ and have announced the assignment of additional resources.  There are other parts of the city that have levels of crime that are as high or perhaps even higher than the West End.  Will you be assigning additional resources to those areas as well in a proactive manner?

Chief of Police                   As you are aware, we are trying to do the best we can with the resources we have.  We would like to be able to have a greater presence in a number of communities but a ‘cop on every corner’ is just not possible.  We are concentrating our efforts, not just on having a presence.  We’re trying to build relationships within the community.  That is what it’s all about: building relationships.

Media Person #2              In your expert opinion, could the presence of a number of full-time dedicated beat officers assigned to the West End community have prevented these latest acts of violence?

Chief of Police                   It might have, but there is a real problem with assigning resources to prevention activities.  It’s very hard to measure their value because you are never able to truly measure their effectiveness.  How can you measure and put a value on something that did not happen?  The thing to remember, though, is that it is all about building relationships.  That is what I am committed to doing.

Media Person #3              Almost 200 years ago when Sir Robert Peel was charged with the formation of the London Metropolitan Police he laid out 9 basic principles to guide policing.  Are you familiar with those principles?

Chief of Police:                                  Yes of course I am, as are most police officers.

Media Person#3               I am specifically interested in your views on the first principle as it applies to the situation in the West End.

Chief of Police                   In what sense?

Media Person #3              In a general sense but  specifically do you agree with the principle?

Chief of Police                   I think we are getting side tracked here.  We are not here to discuss principles we are here to discuss what has happened in the West End and what we are going to do about it.

Media Person #3              Would it help if I read out what the principle says?

Chief of Police                   Let’s move on.  We are dealing here with reality not theory.

Media Person #4              Mr. Mayor, you have said that the people in the West End have a right to be angry and that they should be angry.  Who should they be angry with?

Mayor                                   They should be angry with the politicians in Ottawa.  We need harsher criminal laws to keep criminals behind bars.

Media Person #4              Should any of that anger be directed at the city and the police service whose job it is to police the city?

Mayor:                                 Absolutely not.  The city has worked hard to increase the number of officers on the street.  My, excuse me, I mean our, police officers under the guidance of the Chief of Police are putting their lives on the line every day.  Their efforts  should not be criticized.

Media Person #4              Increases in police complement over the past decade have been almost exclusively funded by the province.  Are there plans to increase the size of the Service further using city dollars?

Mayor                                   The city is not in a position to spend additional tax dollars on policing.

Media Person#4               And yet, in the last year the city (with assistance from the province) has spent or committed to spending approximately 5 million dollars on Closed Circuit Television and the purchase of a helicopter.  Some have suggested that is politically motivated pre-election spending that could have been devoted to increasing the size of the police service and putting dedicated foot patrols in high crime areas such as the West End.  What is your response to that?

Mayor (defensively and offensively)              That is a ludicrous suggestion.  I’m offended that you would even ask such a question.  There are serious issues at stake here and you are trying to turn this into a political issue.  And as you all know because I’ve said it many times, I am not a politician.

(The mayor, displaying his best exasperated look, motions to the PIO and the Chief of Police to follow him into the mayor’s office and they depart.)

The following is a link to the City of Winnipeg/Winnipeg Police Service Crimestat website:

http://www.winnipeg.ca/crimestat/whatisCrimeStat.stm

The map below displays reported crime for the ten offenses tracked by Crimestat for the Daniel McIntyre Ward for the period of June 2009 to May 2010

Source:  City of Winnipeg Crimestat website

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