Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Prime season for crime upon us

River Heights often targeted, police warn

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

But this year, the Winnipeg Police Service hopes a proactive approach to educate homeowners about ways to ward off break and enters, vehicle thefts and other crimes may pay off with a major decrease in crimes of opportunity.

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Officers, cadets and other police volunteers are going door to door in the River Heights area, dropping off leaflets and netting some face time with residents to inform them about the troubling 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 the annual property-crime spike will ultimately curb the problem city-wide.

"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 since 94 per cent of its crime is property-related, said police.

Looking at the average of the last five years, the number of commercial, residential and vehicle break-ins exceeds 300 annually, statistics provided by the WPS show. The occurrences of these crimes begin to pick up around the end of April and continue until the cold weather returns in the fall, police said.

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

In addition to doing the 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.

The same kind of 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 carrying out the project.

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

O'Reilly had her car vandalized two summers ago. The culprit got away with nothing but did some damage, she 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.

Here's what police are asking of River Heights homeowners:

  •  Close and lock doors when not at home, same for garage doors at all times.
  •  Don't leave valuables like bicycles or lawnmowers lying about.
  •  Install light-timers and/or alarm systems.
  •  Park in well-lit areas and lock vehicles.
  •  Don't leave valuables in cars.
  •  Tell neighbours if going away.
james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 15, 2014 B4

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