Should Portage and Main be reopened to pedestrian traffic

 

Portage and main in the winter time is a cold, windy not to mention slippery place to try and walk.

 

Songs have been written about it.

It has been the venue for public rallies.

Originally an ox cart crossing in the late 1800’s  Portage and Main has evolved into Winnipeg’s most iconic intersection.

My first memories of Portage and Main date back to the early 1970’s  when I was a new recruit with the Winnipeg Police Force (as it was then called) .

Police recruits attended classes in the morning.  The classroom was located on the 5th floor of the Public Safety Building.  Then in the afternoon recruits were assigned to walk beats in the downtown area and of course do traffic duty.

Some of the most dreaded traffic points were Portage and Donald, Mayfair and Main and of course the biggy:  Portage and Main.

Portage and Donald was not all that problematic except for the fact that is was the route used by the then Deputy Chief J. C. Webster to make his way home and the poor Constable doing traffic duty there needed not only to try and keep traffic flowing smoothly but also had to keep a sharp eye out for the Deputy’s car.  The Deputy liked to be saluted and in that era hell had no fury like a Deputy not saluted.

Then of course there was Mayfair and Main.  That intersection was a two-person job.  One recruit would be out in the middle of the street actually directing traffic, and the second would manually operate the traffic signal box changing the traffic control signals from green to amber to red based on traffic flow.  What made this intersection dicey was that the Superintendent in charge of Training and Personnel (Charles S Tully) and the Sergeant Instructor (Thomas Arfield) both rode the bus home along Main Street and woe be to the Constables who failed to facilitate an orderly flow of traffic especially the traffic that was south bound on Main street.

Then there was Portage and Main.  The intersection from hell in terms of traffic and traffic duty.  The constable assigned the task had to juggle three lanes of traffic approaching Main street from Portage Avenue east bound, and Main Street both north and south bound as well as a lesser flow of traffic from East Portage Avenue heading west.   Controlling those wanting to turn left, right or proceed straight through was bad enough but then add pedestrians to the mix and it was a nightmare.  Due to the cold conditions in the winter, pedestrians invariably kept crossing the street well after the don’t walk signal came on and because of the congestion in the area, drivers kept entering the intersection when the traffic light turned amber and well beyond.  The result was gridlock and of course many close calls including the occasional accident involving cars and pedestrians.  With all the honking of horns,  and pedestrians shouting at drivers it was like being in New York.

The closing of Portage and Main to pedestrian traffic in 1978 was a major step forward in terms of pedestrian safety and traffic flow in downtown Winnipeg.

Now our Mayor who was knee high to a grasshopper when the change was made wants to stage a nostalgic ‘back to the future’ and reopen Portage and Main to pedestrians.  Using the words of an actor from a movie some years back: ‘big mistake, huge’.

The City has grown substantially since 1978 (by approximately 150,000) and traffic flow which was a problem then is an even greater issue now.   The re-opening or Portage and Main to pedestrian traffic would be a great plan if your end objective was to bog down the center of Winnipeg into a total rush hour gridlock and at the same time endanger the lives of pedestrians.

So if that is your objective, Mayor Bowman, the re-opening of Portage and Main to pedestrian traffic will be a booming success.  Have at it.

Oh, and by the way, how about a few hitching posts – they used to have those along Main Street as well. 

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Chief of Police or Chief Apologist

The situations they face afford public figures the opportunity to define themselves.

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The Situation

Part I the Media Release

It started innocently enough with the following Media Release

November 29, 2016

Winnipeg Police Service Media Release
For Immediate Release

Update – Homicide Investigation – C14-266289

Male Arrested:

As previously released -On December 14, 2014, at approximately 6:30 a.m., Winnipeg Police Service members and the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service responded to the area of Selkirk Avenue and Charles Street for the report of a female having been stabbed.

An adult female, suffering from stab wounds, was located and transported to hospital in critical condition. She succumbed to her injuries.

The victim was identified as Angela Marie POORMAN, 29 years of Winnipeg.

The investigation continued by members of the Homicide Unit.

Investigators learned the victim met a male early that morning. An argument erupted between the two and the male suspect produced a large knife. The victim was stabbed multiple times before the male fled the area.

Due to the efforts of numerous WPS resources, some of which include: Uniform Patrol, Forensic Identification, Counter Exploitation Unit and Major Crimes, a suspect was identified and arrested.

On November 28, 2016, a charge of 2nd Degree Murder was authorized and an 18 year old male was arrested. The accused cannot be named as he was a youth at the time of the alleged offence.

He was remanded into custody.

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Part II, the press conference

In the subsequent news conference police spokesperson Jason Michalyshen expanded on the Media Release and added some additional information.

He stated in part:

“Their encounter on this one particular morning was essentially an agreement for sexual services for cash.”

“This agreement led to an argument specific to money and ultimately the accused in this matter allegedly produced a large knife and proceeded to strike or stab Ms. Poorman multiple times.”

Part III, the accusation

Enter Leslie Spillett the Director of Ka Ni Kanichihk and former members of the Winnipeg Police Board with the following comments:

“It framed Angela Poorman as a sex-trade worker, which had nothing to do with her murder.”

“Indigenous women are always characterized in such a negative way, which adds to their victimization.”

“Stop blaming Indigenous women for being murdered.”

Part IV, the Chief’s response

This was a defining moment for Chief Smyth.

Would he point out to Spillett that Poorman’s tragic death had everything to do with her being a sex trade worker and was a death that could have been prevented?  Would he make this a ‘teaching’ moment for Spillett, sex trade workers and indeed the public or would be veer off into political correctness?

Smyth choose the latter course, offering an apology to Spillett and the Indigenous community at large.

He then took it one step further and personally ‘spoke to’ (read reprimanded) the Public Information officer in question.

Part V, Conclusion

Chief Smyth has taken the first step to becoming the Chief Apologist and not the Chief of Police of the Winnipeg Police Service.

CPTED Part II

In my previous post on CPTED I displayed a number of screen shots of communities in the City of Winnipeg that showed very low crime rates.  The communities in question benefited from the application of some basic tenets of CPTED, namely, a natural barrier (the river) surrounding the communities as well as limited points of entry and exit.

Those naturally occurring features might prompt the question: what do you do if there is no river or other natural  barrier?

The fact is, that if addressed during the development and building stages of a community, man-made features can be added to replicate features that naturally occur in other communities.  Not only can the features be replicated, so can the results in terms of a reduction in crime.

The pictures below are of a residential areas within the boundaries of the Brockville community in the south-west area of Winnipeg.  As can be seen in the pictures the community has very limited points of entry and exit (two), and a boundary (a fence) surrounding it.

Brockville is another community, or portion of a community, that shows a very low crime rate.  As a matter of fact, according to Crimestat, of the criminal offences tracked by Crimestat this community had no reported crime between January 1 2015 and December 15 2015.

 

 

 

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View of the one entry/exit to the east portion of the development

 

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View of the one entry/exit to the west portion of the development

 

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Border fence along the south edge of the development, facing Sterling Lyon Parkway

 

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Border fence along the west edge of the development running parallel to Brockville Street

 

The gray area  in the screen shot (below) is a representation of the entire Brockville community.  The pie shaped area outlined in black is the Brockville residential development.  The development itself consists of single storey bungalow style townhouses in the east portion, and multi-story apartment style town houses on the west side.

Although not a high-end gated community, the incorporation of just two aspects of the CPTED design philosophy (limited points of entry and a boundary) can have a dramatic effect on crime rates.

 

 

 

Source - Winnipeg Police Crimestat on 2015-12-15

Source – Winnipeg Police Crimestat, Screenshot taken on  2015-12-15

Winnipeg Crime Statistics (2015) by Electoral Ward

The statistics presented in this post are for the 8 crime types tracked by Winnipeg Police Crimestat for the dates  January 1st. 2015 and December 31 2015.

 

The numbers in parenthesis are the number of crimes reported to police  (2015/2014)

 

Old Kildonan  -7%   (384/414)

Point Douglas  -5%  (1009/1059)

St. Charles  -3%    (199/205)

Mynarski   0%   (1056/1061)

Transcona  +2%   (305/298)

St. Boniface  +11%  490/440)

Fort Rouge/East Fort Garry  +8%  (661/611)

Charleswood/Tuxedo  +12%  (217/194)

St. Vital  +20%  (437/364)

St. James/Brooklands/Weston    +21%  (663/548)

Elmwood/East Kildonan  +22%  (610/500)

River Heights/Fort Garry  +23%  (513/418)

Daniel McIntyre  +23%   (1060/862)

North Kildonan  +24%   (299/242)

South Winnipeg/St. Norbert  +31%  (403/307)

 

Observations

Except for the St. Charles ward, which has very little crime to begin with, the three wards that saw decreases or remained the same are all in the north end of the city (District 3).

The Daniel McIntyre ward edged out Mynarski as the ward with the most reported crimes.

The south-west, and south-east portions of the city showed major increases in property related crime.

Crime in Winnipeg up 11%* in 2015


The numbers in this post are  based on the 10 crime types tracked by the City of Winnipeg Crimestat program between January 1 2015 and December 31 2015.  

* The original version of the post represented crime numbers  up until December 28th 2015.  

 

City Wide Highlights

The Good

Murders are down by 19%,  with 22 compared to 27 in 2014.

Attempted theft of motor vehicle is down 10%.

Sexual assaults are down 4%.

The Bad

Theft of motor vehicle is up 3%.

Non-commercial robberies (muggings) are up 3%.

Shootings are up 9%

Break and enter other (stand alone  buildings) are up 10%

The Ugly

Residential break ins are up 19%.

Commercial break ins are up 22%.

Commercial robberies are up 36%.

 

District 1

District 1 saw an overall increase of 15%*.  The  increase can be largely attributed to break ins other (57%), residential break ins (29%),  attempt theft of motor vehicle (17%) and theft of motor vehicle (12%).   Most other categories were static. On a positive note murders dropped by 50% to 7 from 14 in 2014.

District 2

District 2 saw an overall increase of 20%*, led by commercial break ins (51%), commercial robberies (21%), break and enter other (18%), residential break ins (15%), and theft of motor vehicle (17%).

District 3

District 3 was the only district that saw a drop in crime, down 5%*.  Attempt theft of motor vehicle was down (22%), theft of motor vehicle down (19%), break and enter other down (16%), commercial break ins down (14%).  Commercial robberies were up (44%), as were sexual assaults (29%), and residential break ins (14%).

District 4

The increase in District 4 was 16%*.  The biggest factors contributing to the increase were commercial robberies (83%), commercial break ins (50%), residential break ins (20%) and non commercial robberies (10%).

Downtown

The area defined as the ‘Downtown’ saw an increase of 6%.  The offences that pushed the numbers up in the downtown area were primarily break and enter other (143%), and residential break ins (32%).

Observations

  1. Residential break ins were up in all four Districts ranging from 14 to 29%, with a city-wide average increase  of 19%.
  2. The number of stolen vehicles went up in all districts except District 3 which saw a reduction of 19%.
  3. Break and enter other increased in all districts except District 3 which saw a reduction of 16%.
  4. Commercial break ins  went up 22% city-wide but were reduced by 14% in District 3.

Questions

  1.  What, in policing terms, was done differently in District 3 compared to the other three Districts in 2015?
  2.  Were a significant number of personnel assigned to the other three Districts shifted to  District 3?
  3. What steps will the Winnipeg Police Service be taking to address the significant increase in the number of break ins and robberies?

A future post will provide a further breakdown of crime by Electoral Wards, as well as a look at  some specific neighbourhoods.

*Update

The statistics in the original post which covered the period from January 1, 2015 to December 28 2015 have been amended to correspond to what currently appears on the Crimestat site which included the last 3 days of 2015.

The changes made are as follows:

City wide rate changed from +9% to +11%

District 1   from +12% to +15%

District 2 from +18% to +20%

District 3 from -6% to -5%

District 4 from +15% to +16%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you afraid of the Winnipeg Police?

The following is a quote from a recent article by Marc Montgomery:

Critics of the “creeping militarization” say when police appear more and more often in body armour and military clothing, with automatic weapons and armoured vehicle, it creates distance and fear between the population and the forces.

Members of the Winnipeg Police Service wear body armour on a daily basis, carry semi-automatic pistols, have access to an array of weapons and now have an armored vehicle. That begs the question;

 

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

What is  Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)

In a nutshell Crime prevention through environmental design is a multi-disciplinary approach to deterring criminal behavior through environmental design.  CPTED strategies rely upon the ability to influence offender decisions that precede criminal acts.  As opposed to target hardening which makes it more difficult to commit crimes such as break-ins, CPTED attempts to deter criminals from even picking a target in a particular area.  It is premised on the theory that criminals make rational choices and that if the cost (chance of getting caught) are great enough criminals will not commit the crime.

CPTED is a multi-faceted approach but two of the tactics it employs in relation to neighborhoods are:

  1. minimize the number of entry and exit points on a block; and
  2. design roadways to discourage through-traffic.

Couple those two tactics with a barrier around a neighborhood and you have an excellent recipe for crime prevention.

It is theories, based on CPTED principles,  that led developers to come up with the gated community concept.

What follows are  three examples of naturally occurring crime prevention measures, namely a river surrounding  a community with a limited number of entrances and exits and roadways that discourage and in some cases eliminate through traffic that clearly demonstrate that the design of communities has a lot to do with the prevalence or lack of crime.

All the screenshots in this post were taken from the City of Winnipeg Crimestat website and depict reported crime for the offences reported on Crimestat for the period between January 1, 2015 and December 10, 2015.   The screen shots were taken on December 8th, 2015.

 

This first screen shot shows the Armstrong Point community in downtown Winnipeg which had 3 reported crimes:

 

2015-12-10 (1)

 

 

This screen shots show the West Broadway Community which is immediately adjacent to Armstrong Point.  West Broadway had 114 reported Crimes.

2015-12-10 (4)

 

 

This shot shows the Wildewood Park Community with 4 reported crimes:

2015-12-10 (3)

The adjacent community of Crescent Park reported 34 crimes:

2015-12-10 (5)

 

The  Kingston Crescent Community with 3 reported crimes:

 

2015-12-11

 

Lastly, the Elm Park community adjacent to Kingston Crescent,  24 reported crimes:

 

2015-12-11 (1)

 

I think the screen shots and the number of crimes they depict make the argument.  If you have a barrier, in this case a natural barrier such as a river surrounding a community with limited points of entry and egress and a lack of through traffic, criminals are deterred from committing crimes in those areas.  This is not a fluke.  I have been tracking these communities for years and the results are the same or very similar year after year.

Some small enclaves in newly developed residential areas such as Waverly West embody limited CPTED principles either consciously or by default.  It is unfortunate that CPTED principles are not applied  across the board in new developments.  Neighbourhoods designed and laid out based on CPTED principles would be a boon to the residents living in those neighbourhoods, as well as the Police Service in terms of a dramatic reduction in crime and the resulting calls for  service.  A crime that is prevented requires no followup or investigation.