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More thoughts about crime and Winnipeg

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Read an interesting story in the Globe and Mail this week. Mike McMahon, a former NFL quarterback trying to make it with the Toronto Argonauts was victimized by hoodlums. The former Detroit Lion pivot was staying at a hotel near Toronto when his Cadillac Escalade was stolen. The found the luxury SUV several days later emptied of all McMahon's personal belongings (golf clubs, iPod, custom tailored suits), stripped of all its usable parts (including tires and wheels) and trashed.McMahon was obviously upset by the incident. But the aspiring Argo signal caller took it all in stride. "Everyone has adversity they must overcome," he told the Globe. "I'm must fortunate I wasn't there when it happened and maybe faced someone who would've pulled a knife or a gun or something."As interesting as McMahon's comments were, I was more stunned by what Argo general manager Adam Rita said next. "I had the same thing happen to me in B.C.," Rita said matter-of-factly. "I was on the move and had everyting in my car and had parked in a secured parking lot. We had a team wrap-up party and when I came out, (thieves) had hit 50 cars and just gutted them. At least I got my car back ... but everything else was gone."After reading the story I was immediately struck by a thought: If the above incidents had transpired in Winnipeg, you can bet there would have been stories on the front page of this and the other paper, and not tucked deep within the sports section. That's because in Winnipeg, having your car broken into and all your stuff stolen you're not really a loser, you're a winner of the crime victim lottery.It seems whenever someone's bike, car or bus ticket is stolen in this town, the media (FP included) rush to exploit the story as some sort of evidence that civilization is decaying here at a much faster rate than anyone else. The victim usually spouts something akin to "crime is worse in Winnipeg than Baghdad' and everyone sighs and nods their heads. Eventually, the good citizens of Winnipeg (and there are many to be sure) to reach out with free food, accommodation and stuff. The victim, tears in his eyes, thanks the citizenry but suggests strongly that he will be travelling next year somewhere safer, like a mine field in Cambodia.I cannot be 100 per cent sure, but a reasonably in-depth Internet search produced not a single story about that incident. It appears nobody in Vancouver — a city with its fair share of crime — thought it was interesting enough to mention.I actually like the fact that we reach out to visitors who've been dealt a bad hand, I just wish it didn't require us to moan and wail in unison about what a bad place Winnipeg is. Perhaps we could just set up a booth at Tourism Winnipeg for visiting crime victims to apply for charity.*****On a similar note, I had to laugh when I read the story this past week about how more Winnipeggers thought their downtown sucked than residents of any other city in Canada. In this humble writer's opinion, surveys of this kind make for the worst kind of journalism. Of course Winnipeggers think their downtown sucks. But the more salient question to ask was, how many of you who think downtown sucks ACTUALLY GO DOWNTOWN??No results available for that yet. My own prediction is that very few people who slag downtown actually spend any time there.Which makes this story just another celebration of the uninformed.-30-

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About Dan Lett

Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school.

Despite the fact that he’s originally from Toronto and has a fatal attraction to the Maple Leafs, Winnipeggers let him stay.

In the following years, he has worked at bureaus covering every level of government – from city hall to the national bureau in Ottawa.

He has had bricks thrown at him in riots following the 1995 Quebec referendum, wrote stories that helped in part to free three wrongly convicted men, met Fidel Castro, interviewed three Philippine presidents, crossed several borders in Africa illegally, chased Somali pirates in a Canadian warship and had several guns pointed at him.

In other words, he’s had every experience a journalist could even hope for. He has also been fortunate enough to be a two-time nominee for a National Newspaper Award, winning in 2003 for investigations.

Other awards include the B’Nai Brith National Human Rights Media Award and nominee for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism.

Now firmly rooted in Winnipeg, Dan visits Toronto often but no longer pines to live there.


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