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Crimes worry Village people

'Nobody seems to be paying attention'

Three recent high-profile crimes in one of the city's hippest areas are causing people in the district to take a hard look at their public safety.

For Marty Halprin, owner of Celia's Jewellery at 194 Osborne St. and a member of the Osborne Village Business Improvement Zone (BIZ) board, crime has shuttled south of downtown following cleanup efforts there.

E. Anne Dawson, communications director of the Gas Station Arts Centre in Osborne Village, would like to see an increased police or cadet presence in the area. Drug-dealing, marijuana smoking and public drinking have taken place in the courtyard outside the centre at River Avenue and Osborne Street, she said.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

E. Anne Dawson, communications director of the Gas Station Arts Centre in Osborne Village, would like to see an increased police or cadet presence in the area. Drug-dealing, marijuana smoking and public drinking have taken place in the courtyard outside the centre at River Avenue and Osborne Street, she said. Photo Store

The shift has meant "more drug dealers, more thieves, more people that are looking for a place to sleep at night in the parks," he said.

He's afraid the recent high-profile incidents, on top of other ongoing crime, will give Osborne Village a bad rap.

"Drugs are available too freely, and nobody seems to be paying attention," he said. "Some of the merchants have tried to shoo some of these people away, but they fear retaliation."

The rash of violence started early last Thursday, when police rushed to the corner of Osborne Street and River Avenue after a fight between two adult men involving a squeegee.

Then 27-year-old Baljinder Singh Sidhu was killed after being stabbed outside an Osborne Street bar early Friday amid a brawl that reportedly also involved gunshots.

And early Sunday morning, a man armed with a knife made off with cash after a robbing a convenience store in the 100 block of Osborne Street.

Osborne Village BIZ board president Teresa Sanderson, who owns the Friendly Florist on River Avenue, said she sees the recent crimes as "completely isolated."

The BIZ works "hand-in-hand" with the police, and she considers the area "low-crime," she said.

"I think anyone who lives within Osborne Village or knows the Village or visits the Village knows that it's not a typical place of violence," she said.

But E. Anne Dawson, Gas Station Arts Centre communications director, said while she's not concerned for her personal safety, she'd like to see a larger police or cadet presence in the neighbourhood.

"I could certainly say that given the events over the past week, it will be a priority of ours to call and request it," she said.

The arts centre has a market in the courtyard near the corner of River Avenue and Osborne Street every Thursday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

"In the summer, when it gets nicer out and people frequent the area more often, we do still have problems with people using the courtyard for nefarious activities at times," said Dawson, explaining there's drug-dealing and loitering.

"Sometimes loitering is just as intimidating for the general public. If it's not drug-dealing, it's just smoking pot and drinking in open areas."

Police haven't made any arrests in Sidhu's death.

Winnipeg Police Service spokeswoman Const. Natalie Aitken said police are "working with a number of stakeholders" in the area, and cadets and community support unit officers have been patrolling the Village.

"There's certainly been violent incidents as of late in that area but to say that there's really going to be a spike in these incidents, I mean, they were isolated incidents (unto) themselves," she said.

The squeegee assault last Thursday did not result in any charges, as the 29-year-old victim told police he didn't want any laid.

The man had gone to hospital in critical condition after the assault but was later upgraded to stable.

Police have laid charges in connection with the robbery Sunday, arresting 40-year-old Colin Tudor O'Rourke.

Crime prevention is on the agenda for a community meeting Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Earl Grey Community Centre.

gabrielle.giroday@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 9, 2011 B1

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