Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Some perspective needed on city's homicide rate

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DON'T LOOK NOW, BUT... In case you haven't been doing a body count -- as I happened to be this week -- Winnipeg is on pace for another record year of homicides.

Last year, the city set the record at 39, compared with 22 in 2010.

But this year we've already recorded 14 homicides -- and possibly 15 depending on an autopsy report of a suspicious death in a Home Street rooming house this week -- which puts us roughly two weeks ahead of 2011's unenviable pace.

The latest confirmed homicide was suspected to be a domestic slaying in the suburbs, which is a relative rarity compared to the bulk of murders in this city.

To get perspective, though, I asked former Winnipeg deputy police chief Menno Zacharias what he thinks of the current numbers.

He basically said it was too early in the year to conclude the city were on its way to another record-breaking year for violent deaths. Last year's pattern of homicides, and especially the clustering, suggest he's right.

In 2011, Winnipeg recorded its 14th and 15th homicides on May 16. The 16th happened on May 21.

And then more than a month lapsed before the 17th was recorded in late June.

There would have been only one homicide in July, were it not for five deaths that were the result of an arson in Point Douglas.

And so the shooting and knifing and arsons and, of course, the beatings go on.

Should you be afraid?

Not really.

Not unless you're also afraid to drive or cross the street, because there was another record set last year.

More than 100 people lost their lives on Manitoba's roads in 2011.

So buckle up.

And, of course, look both ways before you cross the street.

If you still dare to walk them.


-- -- --

BRIDGING THE CITY'S PAST WITH ITS FUTURE... The last time I heard, there was only one campaign to rename the refurbished Disraeli Freeway.

Now there's a second.

The Sons of Ukrainian Pioneers (a.k.a. SOUP) are circulating petitions calling for the city to rename the bridge in honour of one of the city's longest-serving, and most popular mayors.

The late Steve Juba.

He served for 21 years, from 1957 to 1977, and yet his most famous legacy is a vision with which Winnipeg continues to struggle nearly 20 years after his death.

Rapid transit.

Juba imagined it as a monorail.

But Juba did much more than dream of the future. He was very much present in the moment when he was in office, being the mayor who introduced the 911 emergency line concept in North America, who ushered in metropolitan government, oversaw the construction of a new Winnipeg City Hall and, in the words of those who want the bridge renamed in his memory, was a "populist who supported new development and lower taxes."

Yes, he already has a small park named after him on Waterfront Drive. But someone who did so much and served so long for Winnipeg needs something bigger and more representative of who he was as a politician and a person. And Stephen Juba Way would do that nicely.

It's even better than the other name the other campaign wants for the new Disraeli Freeway.

Which is?

The Bachman Turner Overdrive, of course.


-- -- --

THE LAST WORDS... A while back, I was writing about famous or amusing last lines on gravestones and wondering what you would want your epitaph to say. So it was that some readers responded.

Jim Rodger of Argyle recalled a favourite from a visit to a cemetery in Botha, Alta., where he noticed a marker in the shape of a players' bench.

On an accompanying granite stone, along with the person's name, date of birth and death, were the logos of the Calgary Flames, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and this epitaph: "The Fat Lady Sang."

And so she has.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 3, 2012 B1

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