After weeks of increased violence in our community, the Winnipeg Police Service, Ndinawe and the William Whyte Neighborhood Residence Association put together a forum for the community to come together and talk about what can be done to curb the violence.
Turn out was low, but members from the community still turned up to listen to what had to be said. It was a bag of mixed emotions – anger, hope and frustration. We’re a community that loves where we live and we’re tired of the occurring violence in our backyard.
Division 3 Commander Inspector Cam Baldwin was the first speaker of the night. Since taking post at Div 3, he is incredibly proud with the amount of phone calls that come in to his division daily with callers asking what they can do to help out the police service and help their community. He also mentioned that residents have been very diligent in calling in when trouble is spotted, showing that people do care about where they live despite the negative press/comments the area gets.
Inspector Baldwin also urged that police and citizens need to work together to help prevent and curb crime and violence in the area. More work also needs to be done in the schools as children are the vulnerable ones; SRO’s (Student Resource Officers) are doing a fantastic job at closing the gap that is found with kids and the police. SRO’s have been well welcomed in the area, not only from students, but members of the community. They love having the presence of police back in their neighborhoods. He also stressed that the community is in need of more jobs and gave thanks to the many organizations in the area that have helped community members in finding a job.
The second speaker was Annette Champion-Taylor, Coordinator for the William Whyte Residence Association. Champion-Taylor noted that the William Whyte community is starting to get better, the neighborhood is flourishing. More and more WW residents are starting to step up and take part in neighborhood activities such as street patrol (COPPS), community gardening, cleaning up the trash, etc. Neighbors need to work together to make a change; small steps at a time. Community members can call in full garbage bins (to prevent bin fires), report kids that are not in school (there is a new law that requires kids to attend school until they’re 18). WWRA has a monthly safety audit that Champion-Taylor suggests other residence associations can do as well; patrol neighborhoods, check garbage bins, note graffiti, yards with too much garbage, etc. The residence association patrolled the neighborhood on Halloween to ensure that the kids had a great time and that they were safe. We don’t have to be prisoners in our own home, especially at 4:30 when it starts to get dark. We need to be vigilant and be the eyes and the ears for the police.
Tammy Christensen of Ndinawe spoke of the programs that the organization has for children and youth.
- Outreach Program
- Emergency Shelter
- Transitional Program
- Youth Resource Program
Constable Jason Strick of Public relations delivered a brief presentation on how to stay safe, stressing the three keys to safety:
- Be aware of your surroundings, at all times.
- Is there a risk with the area?
- Have a safety plan.
Crime prevention is not just the job of the police and governments, but is the responsibility of the community as well. Get together with your neighbors to discuss potential issues and what can be done; look out for everyone, report suspicious activity. The police cannot be everywhere and that is why they rely on community members to be their eyes and ears.
Constable Strick also discussed the crime stats that are available on the City of Winnipeg website for everyone to view. You can see the stats for recent break-ins, car thefts, violence crimes, etc and compare to previous stats. E-Watch is a new electronic service that will alert subscribers to theft in the area such as car theft and break and enters for your district and you can also subscribe to the daily WPS press releases.
Terri Grey of Community Services, City of Winnipeg, discussed the free programs that are available through the city for children and youth. She is constantly in the North End going to various organizations to promote the programs available. Centennial Pool was recently renovated to include a new recreation side. This area now has a fitness facility with treadmills, weights and other workout equipment. You can also drop by over lunch to play badminton, basketball, etc. There’s even free coffee and free newspapers, you can stop by to chat with friends and neighbors. The free program catalog has a great 2 for 1 pool admission, so grab a few, grab a friend and head to the nearest city swimming facility. But hurry, the coupon is good until December 10, 2011. Terri also mentioned that they have a free waiver process on how to afford programs when you find it’s difficult to pay for them. Contact 311 to learn of the process.
Next up to speak was Michael Champagne… better known to us as northendmc on Twitter! It was such an honor to hear him speak… he is really passionate about living in the area and has some great ideas and a great vision for the community.
Michael stressed the importance for our community to live once again; people are dying, the community is dying and we need to stand up and make a change. He founded AYO! (Aboriginal Youth Opportunities) in 2010, an anti-gang organization to help change the lives of aboriginal youth in the area. New banners will be up and down Selkirk Avenue soon, replacing the 21-year-old banners that are currently falling apart.
Be on the lookout for The FWD, a community newspaper written by youth of the community. Students from St. John’s High School, Children of the Earth and R.B. Russell will be contributing to the FWD, spearheaded by Michael. He also told everyone to watch out for the statement, “North End Rising”, because once again the North End will rise.
Brent Benoit of Safer Communities spoke about the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act. This Act was legislated by the Government of Manitoba to help community members “hold property owners accountable for threatening or disturbing activities that regularly take place on their property related to“:
- Unlawful drug use or dealing, production or cultivation
- Prostitution and related activities
- Unlawful sale of liquor
- Unlawful use or sale of intoxicating substances – non-potable and solvent-based products
- Sexual abuse or exploitation of a child or related activities
- Possession or storage of an unlawful firearm, weapon or explosive.
You can read more about the Act by visiting the website: http://www.gov.mb.ca/justice/safe/scna.html
Sgt. Bonnie Emerson, who spearheaded the forum, from the Community Support Unit was the last to speak. WPS has been trying to find new ways to help/get involved and the forum was a pilot project. She applauded Inspector Baldwin for his “open door policy” and allowing an “out of the box” approach when it comes to community policing and community members helping the police service. WPS officers will soon be available to speak at meetings with residence associations if requested.
She addressed how the police are distributed in the North End. We are unique to three units in the area:
- General Patrol/Emergency Response
- Community Support Unit (which requires help from the public)
The Community Support Unit has many priorities, but the top ones are drugs and crime suppression. Another complaint the CSU receives is the lack of information as to who to call when there’s an emergency or they have information on illegal activity (the numbers will be posted on our blog).
Sgt. Emerson brought up Constable Josh Ewatski who is spearheading a new initiative with the WPS that will soon be launched – a new crime awareness and reporting initiative. Materials will be available to the public with information on who to call in an emergency, who to call with minor issues, drug, gang and illegal activity issues. A pocket card with police numbers will also be available, this way you can always have it on you in just in case.
Sgt. Emerson hopes that there are many more forums held in the area so we can come up with new ways to prevent and combat crime. She also wants to continue to work with the community to continue the support from the WPS and the relationship it has with its community.
If any future forums are held, we will be sure to notify the community and report it on the blog! Keep your eyes peeled!
Apologies if any names have been misspelled. An information sheet with a list of speakers was not provided at the forum.