Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Councillor prods police on getting data on stabbings

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A Winnipeg city councillor has renewed his push for police to track stabbings amid concern the city needs to do more to get a grip on the problem.

Coun. Harvey Smith (Daniel McIntyre) met with Winnipeg police Chief Keith McCaskill Thursday in an effort to urge police to manually record stabbings and track whether they are random or gang-related, arise from domestic disputes, or occur during robberies or at drinking parties.

Smith previously asked police to review three years worth of stabbing data to find out how many stabbings were reported, but police said they are sorted as "assault with a weapon" and it would take sweeping changes to a national system to collect such data.

Last month, officials said a national body manages Winnipeg's police-record system and the service would have to ask them to change how they record information in order to track stabbings.

Smith said Winnipeg needs to do more to find a way to prevent or reduce the number of stabbings, and separate, detailed data are needed. For example, he said police could ramp up efforts to confiscate liquor at drinking parties if data reveal there are a large number of stabbings at these events.

Smith said it wouldn't be too much extra work for police to manually record more details about stabbings without nationwide changes to their database.

"I want us to be able to take some action to curtail stabbings, and to do that you need information. You can't be in the dark," Smith said.

Smith's renewed call for better data comes less than two weeks after Winnipeg was named Canada's homicide and violent-crime capital. A Statistics Canada national survey of police-reported crime data for 2011 found Winnipeg and Manitoba had the highest homicide rates in the country, and Winnipeg had the most violent crime.

Winnipeg had a homicide rate of 5.1 per 100,000 residents -- highest among major Canadian communities and Winnipeg's highest since the data were first collected in 1981.

Police say statistics show violent crime has actually declined in Winnipeg between 2009 and 2011.

The week after the national study was released, Winnipeg's 19th homicide victim of the year was stabbed to death. Cherie Lynn Richard -- a resident in Smith's core-area ward -- was riding a bicycle on Furby Street when a man and two women approached her and her sister. An argument ensued and Richard, 20, was stabbed. She died from her injuries.

In a letter to McCaskill, Smith said he was not pleased with the police service's last report on stabbings.

"It upsets me very much that we don't keep a record of these separately," he said. "It wouldn't take much time."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 3, 2012 B3

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