Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Police chief urges citizens to help with cutting crime

Highlights social responsibility in downtown speech

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When it comes to downtown safety, Chief Devon Clunis of the Winnipeg Police Service is the enforcer -- of social responsibility.

Clunis shared some of his downtown-safety initiatives at a Building Owners and Management Association luncheon at the Delta Winnipeg Hotel on Wednesday. To say he had an attentive audience would be an understatement.

"One of the chief concerns for our members is how secure is the downtown for their office workers," said Tom Thiessen, executive director for BOMA.

Speaking to board members and business representatives, Clunis offered answers as he painted a picture of his hopes for a safe and secure Winnipeg.

"We have to work together to create this culture of safety," he said. "We must tackle it from a socially responsible perspective."

Such initiatives include the street crime unit, the aboriginal relations team and community forums.

Information the WPS has gathered from these forums suggests many people want more officers on the beat, cadets on the streets and better relationships with the police, Clunis said.

Lisa Sana, a 22-year-old inner-city resident, has lived in the downtown area her whole life. She is no stranger to violence in this part of Winnipeg, but doesn't think crime is only a downtown problem.

"I suppose they congregate to certain areas, maybe the North End, downtown, but there are still crazy crimes in other places," Sana said. "It happens everywhere."

Sana doesn't agree with the development of an aboriginal relations team. "I think they're directing at one certain group," she said. "I don't want them to specifically target a group as if they might be the problem."

However, David Nguyen, a previous resident of an apartment building on Cumberland Avenue, said he was a victim of occasional downtown violence.

"A couple of times, some guys assaulted me when I was heading home from work and when I went to work early in the morning," Nguyen said.

He was travelling to and from a part-time job near the corner of Ellice Avenue and St. James Street. "They mostly wanted money."

Nguyen said he feels safer now that he has moved out of the inner city.

Clunis wants to change that attitude for both Winnipeg citizens and people who live outside the city.

"We can fix it long term. We can be catalysts of the change, but it can't simply be a police issue," he said, encouraging citizens to accept their social responsibility to bring about change.

"If we each bring the little that we have, suddenly we have enough."

The chief's initiatives are under operational review, meaning he is tracking their success rates as they go along. He did not give himself a set goal to reach at the end of a specific time period.

cindy.chan@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 11, 2013 B2

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