Winnipeg police have lost control of the streets; Plus a brickbat for CTV
We've always respected the opinion of former police officer Robert Marshall, now an occasional writer for the Winnipeg Free Press. Which is why his latest column was so sad. And so troubling. Extremely troubling.
Marshall wrote how the gang culture has poisoned communities to the point where honest citizens are afraid of helping police.
"Snitches should not fear stitches" was some editor's idea of a clever headline for the story, wherein he or she adopted the gang lexicon that anyone who provides police investigators with information is a reviled "snitch".
But politicians must not ignore the clarion call of Marshall's column --- police in Winnipeg have lost control of the streets!
A spree killer roams the city for an hour, gunning down innocent people, and three weeks later, the best police can do, is beg for help?
And that's the best-case scenario. Winnipeg police are actually suggesting that there might have been two or three killers shooting people at random in the North End three weeks ago. And they haven't a clue who they were or when they'll strike again.
It used to be that Winnipegers could sift through the details of a shooting and reassure themselves that they and their families were not at risk. This victim was a member of the Zig Zag gang. That victim was a drug dealer. This incident involved rivalry between aboriginal street gangs. That incident was sparked by a fight at a drinking party. If you weren't in that social circle, you didn't worry that you might be caught up in a gunfight or drive-by. And the people that were... well ... look where they lived. They should be used to it by now, right?
When a woman was killed at a wedding reception on Main Street a year ago, people breathed a sigh of relief to learn some guests were members of the Manitoba Warriors. Nobody was ever arrested, but the public was satisfied to know (in their own minds) that the shooting probably had something to do with gang rivalry.
When a pregnant woman was shot to death through the door of her Magnus Avenue home, people shrugged and grasped at hints the murder had something to do with drugs. When nobody was ever arrested, it didn't matter because the incident had been long forgotten by most.
But the October murders were different. There was no way to blame the victims.
A man stopping by a friend's home on an act of charity gets shot in the back. Another man spending a quiet night at home watching TV with his disabled friend is lured to the door and killed in cold blood. Some flirting teenagers reject a stranger's request for drugs and he opens fire on them.
And the public instinctively knows the death toll could have been much, much greater. One teenaged girl almost bled to death when a bullet passed through her body, nicking her liver. Only the fast actions of health professionals saved her. The shooter tried to kill her companions but missed. Bullets crashed through the windows of two suites, and could have killed anyone in those homes who happened to be standing in the wrong place. In the final shooting that day, had the killer made his way into the house on Boyd Avenue he might have killed the disabled resident along with his friend at the side door. The official toll for that night was two dead, one wounded, but it could just as easily been five dead and others wounded.
Would a mass murder of that magnitude garner more attention.
And the old gimmicks don't work anymore.
You know, the news conference where the police chief, changed from civvies to his fancy official police uniform, looks stern and declares war on gangs. Been there, done that.
The announcement that all available officers are being poured into the area to catch the killer. Check.
Extra police quietly moved out without any publicity. Check.
The earnest plea for tips from the community. Cue the snorts of derision.
The great big mobile command centre to demonstrate police commitment. That's new.
Gone in 10 days.
"The last few years have seen Winnipeg police struggle under a growing number of unsolved killings. For the people of the North End, whose neighbourhoods have suffered the greatest losses, it matters little how motivated police are to resolve these cases. They need answers. Real results."
What they don't need is evidence the police have lost the battle. Hearing the police chief go on radio and literally beg for that "one tip" that will solve the murders, is pathetic.
The police have to reclaim the streets. On their own.
Some suggestions (in no particular order) :
1. You're hiring new recruits. Hire applicants who live in Winnipeg.
The percentage of the force that lives outside of Winnipeg is appalling. We need police officers living in the city. This alone would double or triple the police manpower in Winnipeg. Everytime a police officer drives to work or drives home, the public has eyes on the street. Everytime he goes to the hardware store or the Sals, the police presence has increased. The extra cost is zero. The benefit, huge.
2. Hire 'em big.
The day of the politically correct hire is over. No more shrimps. No more midgets. No more five-foot-nothing women to meet a quota. These quota-hires have only turned the police service into a laughing stock.
You need officers whose mere presence calms down volatile situations. Officers who exude strength and power by showing up, not by pulling out tasers and guns to make up for their small stature.
3. Learn the lessons of counterinsurgency.
Move into the neighbourhood and live with the people you're trying to win over. They're scared of the bad guys, but before they throw their support to you they need to know the good guys are there to stay and not just passing through. The great big mobile command centre is a joke. Rent a house right in the heart of the roughest part of the city and move in the troops to send a message--we're here, we're in your face, and we're going to win. Wear the colours of the rival gangs to rub it in and demonstrate that the local gangs have lost their power to intimidate. The name of the game is power and you have to take it away from the enemy. Undermine them, humiliate them, shame them, challenge them. But you can't do that unless you're there.
Not at the library where there have been zero murders. In the North End and Inner City where the gangs live.
Retailers have wireless surveillance cameras that can be moved quickly and often. You don't need constant surveillance. You need a record of movement in the neighbourhood that can serve as a clue in the event of a murder. It beats doodly-squat, which is what police have in the case of the October spree killer.
Listening to current chief Keith McCaskill prattle on about listening to the community, working with the community, meeting with the community, blah blah blah is nauseating. The community wants you to do your job and stop whining. Does it get any simpler? They've told you a hundred times, don't you listen at these meetings? It's not up to the community to catch criminals. That's the job of the police. If you can't do it, step aside and let the city hire a police chief who can.
6. The newest management trainee will tell you the first order of business is to set goals.
How many crack houses were shut down this year, this month, this week? How many gang members were arrested? As Bob Marshall said, people want real results. If they know you've cleaned up Redwood Avenue, they'll be waiting for you to get to their street, if not next, then soon. It gives them hope. (See Point 3.)
7. You want to show results. Start with grafitti.
In New York City they set a goal for removing grafitti. One day.
Complaining that police are at a dead end in solving the most serious killing spree in recent memory only underlines the problem.
They have lost control of the streets. They need to get it back as fast as possible, for all our sakes.
Less than a week after giving local CTV News a bouquet for their outstanding coverage of a police shooting on Portage Avenue, we have to replace it with a brickbat for their abysmal puff piece about the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
"Officials say the project to finish the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is on time and on budget," reported CTV Winnipeg.
"The project won't have to deal with the huge cost overruns associated with the stadium construction project because about 85 per cent of the $310 million museum project has already been tendered, said museum officials."
"However, there is still about $33 million that must be raised to meet that $310 million total cost."
The CMHR is both over budget and almost a year behind schedule. And Gail Asper's scam is exactly the same as her brother's stadium scam.
The reporter responsible for the CTV museum hype obviously knew nothing about the story and did less research.
The museum is at least $45 million over budget. The project was priced at $265 million when it was officially announced. The government of Canada news release is easily found on the Internet. So is Gail Asper's confession last year that the cost of construction had climbed astronomically.
Why, exactly, did CTV think the museum still needs a mysterious $33 million?
That's how much of the $45 million they still need to find -- even providing their unaudited claims of having raised $12 million towards the shortfall are true.
So unless they suddenly find a hefty wallet somewhere, they're going to wind up with a building only 85 percent finished. And guess who's going to have to bail them out again.
Watch the target move....
* July 28, 2010 Journal of Commerce/ Western Canada's Construction Newspaper
The Canadian Museum of Human Rights is taking shape in Winnipeg...
The museum is scheduled for completion in March 2012.
* Annual Report 2010 Forks North Portage Corporation.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the largest project ever undertaken at The Forks began construction this year. The only federal museum to be located outside of the national capital area is slated to open in April 2012.
* Smith Carter Architects and Engineers
* The CMHR website
Construction begins: Spring 2009
Construction duration: 3 years
Construction completion: Summer 2012
* CTV Nov. 12, 2010
Funds still needed to finish Canadian Museum for Human Rights, one third of work done
Construction work on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is expected to be completed in late 2012.
As for comparisons with the stadium debacle, David Asper was only following the example that worked so well with his sister Gail:
* Claim you're going to fund privately a multi-million dollar project and you only need a little public money to help the project along.
* Once you've got the government involved as a "partner", claim costs have grown so much they need to fund the bulk of the project, though you'll help.
* Start construction without knowing the final cost.
* Announce you can't afford it, so the government has to take over the project, though you'll be rewarded for your efforts. (In Gail Asper's case by being on the board and getting free travel and accomodations for her trips around the world for life).
* Watch the government pay for a project they didn't want in the first place, while you claim credit for it as the MSM applauds your "vision."