Saturday, July 30, 2022

Crime and Safety in Winnipeg in 2022 Part 1

Crime in Winnipeg in the post pandemic period has been raising concern for many people. It would be a mistake to say it is solely media driven. Despite a news conference from Chief Danny Smyth from the Winnipeg Police Service set to reassure people, many in the city are anything but. Being randomly attacked or being a victim of crime are probably first and foremost of concern for citizens. Simply telling people they are statistically unlikely to be a victim of crime does not change the perception of safety.

One of the reasons why The Forks has generally defied perceptions that downtown is dangerous in the past is because the area is clean, looks cared for and has activities associated with tourism and recreation. The presence of a lot of people and that the area is secure has served The Forks well. The pandemic emptying out nearly all downtown and protests originating or ending up at The Forks has changed the dynamic. Instead of being an area of gathering for trade and celebration, it has become a seat of power to express dissatisfaction. 

Freedom of speech is the hallmark of our society. However, the polarized nature and confrontational style of protest has turned The Forks into a sometime hot spot. It is a kind of messy situation because unauthorized political gatherings are probably not exactly what The Forks had in mind when hosting cultural and musical events.

Why is this important? It is important because while it may not be a crime to gather to protest the government, it may make people wonder about their security. If your intent is to go for dinner at The Forks, go for a walk and browse the stores, a large and vocal government protest might seem something to avoid. The peaceful gathering of many people is what the strength of The Forks is. If people think their safety is at issue, they make different choices. It is why crime and safety blur. Perception that The Forks is safe and that crime is rare cannot only be about words but deeds. More on that later.

As for violent crime, it might be rare but it can't be ignored. The Forks is not the only place in the city experiencing it. Polo Park has had a number of incidents too. It is something that the largest shopping mall in the province has to deal with or risk looking more business to Seasons of Tuxedo. For the first time, it appears that there are no vacancies in the Tuxedo mall. Can Polo Park say the same? With one of the largest property managers in the land as owner of the mall, those that run afoul and cause a disturbance can be banned from the premises. 

Still, multiple bans still can't protect people when they are outside. Grant Park Mall is not a place one would associate with violent crime and yet a carjacking took place there in broad daylight. And then a few days later three people stabbed near the mall in a reported attempted break in. None of the victims knew their attacker. There have been a few of those lately. A stabbing took place at a Charleswood bush party same weekend as the carjacking. Those have been going on for decades and suddenly one turns into a near homicide. And the police shot someone in Osborne Village. It really does seem the summer of discontent. The randomness makes anyone say: Are we safe anywhere?

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