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Police advise homeowners on ways to avoid property crime

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Winnipeg police Constables John Simoes and Michelle Hiebert were among the several officers and cadets out canvassing homes in River Heights Wednesday to warn residents of the annual spike in property crimes in the area.

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Winnipeg police Constables John Simoes and Michelle Hiebert were among the several officers and cadets out canvassing homes in River Heights Wednesday to warn residents of the annual spike in property crimes in the area.

The approaching summertime means a spike in property crime, Winnipeg police are warning.

But this year, the Winnipeg Police Service is hoping their proactive approach in educating homeowners about how to ward off break and enters, vehicle thefts and other crimes of opportunity will pay off with a major decrease in crimes of opportunity.

Officers, cadets and other police volunteers have been going door to door in the River Heights area since last week, dropping off leaflets and taking some face time with residents to inform them about the reoccurring seasonal trend.

Details of what's been dubbed Project Comet (named after the Corydon Comets minor sports team) were unveiled Wednesday.

The hope is greater citizen buy-in and awareness of property crime will curb the problem across the city.

"This is not a River Heights thing," supervising Sgt. Mike Brooker of the West District Crime Unit said.

"This is a city-wide initiative that just started in River Heights," said Brooker. "We can't do this on our own."

It made sense to start the program in the sprawling neighbourhood, however, as 94 per cent of any crime it sees is property-related, said police.

"That's why we're here," Brooker said. "It's a starting point for us."

In addition to doing home visits to arm residents with information and safety tips, police are also increasing routine patrols in hopes of nabbing property offenders quickly and getting them off the street.

Early Wednesday, two males were arrested about a block from the River Heights Community Centre as suspects in multiple area vehicle break-ins, said Brooker, illustrating the need for the new approach.

The initiative will be moved into other neighbourhoods, Brooker added.

"This model can be fashioned and used across the city if need be," he said.

Brooker said he was unaware of any extra financial cost the police service will bear from the project.

"It's a good idea," said Waverley Street homeowner Colette O'Reilly, after getting a visit from two uniformed officers.

"A lot of people forget to use their heads," O'Reilly said. "If you're mowing in front, you can't hear what's going on in the back."

O'Reilly said she often sees people leave valuables like purses in their cars — prime pickings for a snatch-and-grab-style thief.

"I think, 'Are you nuts?,'" she said.

She herself had her car vandalized two summers ago.

The culprit got away with nothing but did some damage, O'Reilly said.

River Heights is presumed to be an affluent area, which may explain why it gets frequently targeted.

"People think: 'That's River Heights, there's money there,'" O'Reilly said.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

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