Policing in Winnipeg is at a crossroads

photo courtesy winnipegfreepress.com

 

Murders are at an all time high.  Assaults, robberies and theft are rampant.  Our streets are more unsafe than in recent memory.  Retailers are being robbed daily.  Homeowners are having their personal property vandalised and stolen.  In the minds of many their homes are no longer a place of security.

The question is, what are we going to do?  Are we going to wring our hands and bemoan this current sad state of affairs or are we going to demand action?

The problem is, even if enough people got together and demanded action who do we direct such a demand to?  Our Mayor and City Councillors who are responsible for the oversight of policing in Winnipeg?  The Police Board or the Police Service?  Or should we go straight to the Chief of Police?

The 2015-2019 Winnipeg Police Service Strategic Plan outlined four goals and objectives for that time period.  The Police Service’s mission statement is, “Build safe and healthy communities across Winnipeg through excellence in law enforcement and leadership in crime prevention through social development”.  The specific goals are stated as, “less crime and victimization, engaged communities, effective and efficient service and a healthy organization”.

The goals sound laudable enough but when the entire approach is predicated on the flawed strategy of “crime prevention through social development”, the chances of success are limited.  One has only to  look at what is happening on our streets and to look at the crime statistics.  The goals are not being achieved.  The crime rate is rising, calls for service are increasing, and response times are suffering.

Our Mayor seems totally preoccupied with the budget — limiting the size of any tax increase and cutting services is the order of the day.  Nobody wants to pay higher taxes but by the same token nobody (except the criminals) wants to see a continuation of the lawlessness we see on our streets, in our stores and even in private homes.  The Mayor and the Police Service seem to be in lockstep doing the crime prevention through social development and addressing root causes two step.  Its not working and the public is getting tired of hearing the same music and watching our leaders dance the same dance.

The time is right for our leaders to dig deep and reassess how Winnipeg is policed, and how it should be policed.   The recently announced study being conducted in conjunction with Harvard University is a step in the right direction.  Our police officers have become so entangled performing tasks that fall outside the scope of policing that there is limited time to concentrate on their primary mission.   We need to decide what we want our police to do.

Back in 1974 when the eight municipal police departments were amalgamated into the Winnipeg Police Department (as it was then known), every officer was issued with a set of regulations that governed the police and outlined what their function was.  It outlined the primary objectives of the Police Department as: “The safety of the lives and property of citizens, The preservation of peace and good order, The prevention of crime, The detection of offenders, The enforcement of the laws”.

The reason I believe we are at a crossroads is because we have wandered a long way from those objectives outlined in the early 70’s.  We must decide what we want from our police.    Do we want our police officers to be social engineers?  Do we want our approach to crime prevention to be based on a social development strategy?  Do we want to task our police officers with the job of addressing the root causes of crime?

We need our police officers to get back to the basics:  keeping citizens and their property safe, preserving peace and order, preventing crime, arresting offenders and enforcing the law.

 

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Response to ongoing thefts of liquor

Back on March 7th 2019 I wrote to Premier Pallister indicating that in my view the ongoing thefts from Liquor Stores under the control of the Province  were intolerable in both economic and social terms and that  to allow citizens to flout the law  with impunity sent a negative message to the public.  I asked the Premier what steps the government would be taking to address the situation.

I received a series of responses the end result being a call from a member of the Liquor and Lotteries Security Team.  We had an extended and frank conversation and the individual outlined for me the steps they were taking to address the situation.

I remember thinking at the time that Liquor and Lotteries was attempting to apply a very expensive high tech solution to what really amounts to an age old problem and somewhat simple problem, that is, people walking into a retail outlet and committing theft.

Yet despite my reticience I was somewhat mollified and decided to take a wait ans see attitude.

It would be wrong to assume the Liquor and Lotteries has done nothing to try and stop these thefts.  They are taking steps and these are clearly outlined on their website.

The problem is that the steps they have taken so far are not addressing the problem adequately.  The thefts are continuing seemingly unabated.

In a recent  news conference  Liquor and Lotteries spokesperson Andrea Kowal addressed the issue of liquor thefts and steps Liquor and Lotteries is taking to curb the thefts.  The video goes on for some 15 minutes but it is well worth watching it all.  Kowal is clearly frustrated by the thefts, and the media coverage of the thefts  and comes across as defensive in terms of Liquor and Lotteries continuing inability to deal with the theft issue in an effective manner.  The following is a short quote from that interview:

“Nothing seems to be working.  We have police officers in our stores and they’re robbing us while the police officers, an armed police officer with a gun and a tazer are standing there.  So I’m not quite sure what is supposed to fix this.”

 

The bottom line in terms of the Liquor and Lotteries position as expressed by Kowal is that the ongoing thefts are part of a bigger problem plaguing all retail outlets in Winnipeg and that it is unrealistic to expect Liquor and Lotteries to stop the theft until the underlying social issue and root causes are addressed.  Those comments do not give me a sense that matters are well in hand and that the issue of thefts will be addressed anytime soon.

We all know that there are deep underlying issues that influence crime in Winnipeg and other major urban centres.  Addressing the array of underlying issues may be a solution in the long term but that does not fall within the purview of Liquor and Lotteries mandate.

This may well be a situation where the symptoms of the broader problem need to be addressed in the interim while at the same time attempting to come up with long term solutions.

To draw an analogy to Winnipeg streets, we all know many streets need extensive repair or even replacement but in the interim we still need to be able to drive on them, so we fix the potholes.

We all know we have a major crime problem in Winnipeg, a problem that will not be solved in the short term.  However, in the interim are we willing to settle for wringing our hands and bemoaning the sad state of affairs facing us, and allow crime to run rampant, or are we prepared to address the issue of crime in the here and now?

Remember the auto theft crisis we had in Winnipeg some 20 years ago?  That problem festered and grew and eventually required a radical solution to bring it to heel.

Are we satisfied to let liquor thefts to fester and grow or are we going to demand some action, real concrete action to stop these thefts?

 

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%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Muggings in District 1

Between January 1st.  and October 9th. there have been 520 muggings in District 1.  That is an increase of 4% over last year.

This is what it looks like on a map.

Source:  Winnipeg Police Crimestat website

A close-up view of the immediate downtown area looks like this

Source:  Winnipeg Police Crimestat website

Can you say ‘crime cluster’?

March 2012 Crime Data

A Cautionary Tale:  March 2012 Crime Statistics for Winnipeg (for crimes tracked by Crimestat)

Crime Type Year-to-Date Comparison Selected Filter Comparison
Jan 1, 2012
To
Mar 31, 2012
Jan 1, 2011
To
Mar 31, 2011
% Change Mar 1, 2012
To
Mar 31, 2012
Mar 1, 2011
To
Mar 31, 2011
% Change
 Break & Enters – Commercial
200 151 32% 48 49 -2%
 Break & Enters – Other
200 191 5% 69 85 -19%
 Break & Enters – Residential
480 514 -7% 151 169 -11%
 Homicide
7 9 -22% 2 2 0%
 Robbery – Commercial/Financial
109 83 31% 47 33 42%
 Robbery – Non-Commercial/Financial
371 266 39% 141 85 66%
 Sexual Assault
30 45 -33% 7 18 -61%
 Shooting
18 5 260% 6 2 200%
 Theft Motor Vehicle – Actual
294 346 -15% 115 92 25%
 Theft Motor Vehicle – Attempt Only
186 289 -36% 62 91 -32%
Total 1,895 1,899 0% 648 626 4%

Source:  Winnipeg Police Crimestat website

Highlights 

1.  The city-wide crime rate (for crimes tracked by Crimestat) for the first 3 months of this year (January – March) is unchanged compared to the same period in 2011.

2.  The overall crime rate  in March of 2012 is 4% higher than in March of 2011.

3.   Commercial robberies are up 42% for March (31% year to date).

4.  Muggings are up 66% for March (39% year to date).

5.  Shootings, (although the numbers are still small 18 total so far in 2012) are increasing at an alarming rate compared to 2011 (260%).

Increase in auto theft rate:

In the February  report I drew attention to the 3% rise in auto theft rate.  In March the auto theft rate increased by 25% compared to March of 2011.    This has all the appearances of an upward trend that requires immediate attention.  If the Winnipeg Police Service allows this trend to continue unchecked it has the potential to negatively affect Winnipeg’s overall auto theft rate and undoing all of the awarding winning results achieved by the auto theft suppression strategy.