Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

City crime rate dropping: WPS

Clunis says officer hiring can pause

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A police identification unit collects evidence.

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Winnipeg's crime rate continues to shrink, but the number of constables keeps rising, prompting police Chief Devon Clunis to say he has enough officers for now.

"I've said very clearly to the (city) administration I'm not coming to you asking for any more officers," said Clunis. "At this point, I'm saying that is enough."

Clunis said he wants to give his new community policing and crime prevention strategies time to eat away at the social problems causing crime before assessing his future complement of officers.

But he said he does want more civilian staff, such as data analysts and court-liaison workers.

Winnipeg police released a detailed batch of 2012 crime statistics Wednesday, showing overall crime dropped three per cent in 2012 compared with the year before. Serious crimes such as robbery, break and enter, sexual assaults and homicides all declined year over year.

The long-term trend is even better. Last year saw crime drop by 23 per cent compared with the average of the last five years, and the severity of crime is at its lowest level in nearly 15 years. Homicides and sex assaults rose slightly in the last five years.

"The reality is that Winnipeg is making significant strides in losing what's been a lingering image of us being a crime-ridden city," said Clunis.

Winnipeg is not unique. Crime is down in nearly every Canadian city. The rate has dropped to a 40-year low nationwide, thanks in part to demographics, though Clunis said better policing techniques are also responsible.

Winnipeg police chafe at this, but Statistics Canada data consistently show Winnipeg has among the highest proportion of police officers in Canada. And, Winnipeg has added more than 100 officers in the last five years.

Last year saw a six per cent increase in officers compared with the last five years while crime dropped 23 per cent.

Meanwhile, the province has pledged to fund 10 new Winnipeg officers every year for a total of 50 before the next election. Some of the cash for this year's provincially funded officers was used instead to hire crime analysts, but another 30 officers are slated to be funded over the next three years.

Both city and provincial politicians say it's too soon to call an end to the annual increase in officers or to begin considering a smaller police service.

"We don't think by any stretch of the imagination we have the crime problem solved by any means," said Coun. Scott Fielding, chairman of Winnipeg's new police board and council's protection and community services committee.

"We're happy the plan seems to be working."

Fielding said he is waiting for an operational review of the police service to be completed this fall before making conclusions about proper staffing levels.

Justice Minister Andrew Swan said Winnipeggers expect to have access to police when needed, and expect to live in a safe city. He said the province wants to build on some of the prevention and community-policing strategies Clunis has been working on.

"We never hang out the mission accomplished banner," said Swan.

 

For the full report, go to http://wfp.to/crimestats

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 25, 2013 B1

History

Updated on Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 6:37 AM CDT: Replaces photo

6:42 AM: adds link to police report

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