Magnus Avenue shooting a test of Katz's crime fighting resolve
Today is Day Two.
Day Two of the test of the Mayor's credibility.
On Oct. 10, 2005, 17-year-old Phil Haiart was shot and killed on Maryland Street. He was hit by a stray bullet as two street gangs shot at each other. He was young, white, the son of a well-known Winnipeg surgeon and a recent graduate of St. John's-Ravenscourt.
Exactly 15 days later Mayor Sam Katz joined Police Chief Jack Ewatski to announce the creation of Operation Clean Sweep, a dedicated unit of 45 police officers assigned to target visible street crimes such as prostitution, drug dealing and street-level violence.
" It is time to take back our streets. We have the police force, and they have the intelligence on the criminals "
" Public safety is our number one concern, and that's why we are taking our enforcement efforts to another level " puffed Ewatski.
"The police know who they are, what they do and where they operate. We don't need an ivory tower policy discussion. We need to start cracking down, and this Operation is a major step in the right direction."
proclaimed Mayor Sam.
Fifteen days to the announcement. Another 27 days for the first police patrols to start.
On Monday-- two days ago-- a 38 year old man was shot in the head as he sat in his Jeep Grand Cherokee parked on Magnus Avenue. We don't know much about him yet, other than he was parked outside a known crack house which had been the scene of a gang-to-gang shootout last November. We're betting he's wasn't a surgeon's son or a graduate of a fancy high school.
And we don't care. Because policing decisions aren't made on the basis of who the victim is... Are they?
We don't have a double standard for when the police "service" constitutes a special unit to fight disorder in a neighbourhood... Do we?
We won't see the mayor and the police making excuses why they acted when a nice white boy got shot but not when a po' boy in the North End got popped ... Will we?
The clock has started. It's at Day Two.
"This used to be the nicest street. They've ruined everything," lamented a woman to the Winnipeg Sun. The decent residents of Magnus Avenue have been pleading for help for years. They've been asking their city councillor to do something. After all, Coun. Harry Lazarenko lives at 633 Magnus Ave.
But he couldn't be bothered.
They've begged the police to get rid of the drug dealers and the crack whores and their pimps. And the police said "we're helpless, boo hoo hoo."
In fact, the decent residents of Magnus Avenue are exactly like the decent residents of Maryland Avenue when Phil Haiart got killed. Ignored by City Hall. Ignored by the Police. Ignored by the Press.
Well, maybe not the Press. Not always.
The press was there when Ryan Neufeld, 20, was killed and three of his friends wounded in a drive-by shooting at 355 Magnus Avenue. on New Year's Eve 2005. It was 39 days into Operation Clean Sweep, but that was across town.
And the press was there in February, 2006 when 19-year-old Edwin Yue was shot and killed in Magnus Foods, which actually on Main Street but only one storefront south of Magnus Avenue proper.
And the press was there Monday. And within minutes they were being shown the crack houses along Magnus, which have operated under the noses of the police and politicians for the very years that Operation Clean Sweep was running at the behest of Mayor Sam Katz and Police Chief Jack Ewatski.
Now its Magnus' turn. Now they're waiting to see when the Mayor and the Police Chief will announce a special unit assigned to clean up Magnus Avenue, starting from Main Street west to McGregor, the short stretch where the murders and the shootings and the drug dealing and the street prostitution are threatening to overwhelm the honest, law-abiding, taxpaying homeowners who still live there. Call it Clean Sweep North. Call it Fair Play. Call it whatever, but there's no excuses for not calling it - now.
The Mayor can't cry about a manpower shortage. Winnipeg has five police officers babysitting Level 4 car thieves, and plans to add another five. The force has 3 police officers in city schools and plans to add another three. That's 16 highly trained police officers engaged in babysitting and early childcare duties. We must be flush with police if we can spare 16 officers.
And two recruit classes of 48 constables each will graduate in the next two months.
If Sam Katz could find 48 cops for the West End two years ago, he can find 48 for the North End today.
If he wants to.
The clock is ticking.
Today is Day Two.