Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Bring the Angels to Winnipeg
So the Guardian Angels are interested in expanding their Canadian presence and patrolling the streets of Winnipeg.Nobody asked me but...how soon can they get here?Curtis Sliwa, the outspoken founder/leader of the controversial New York-based organization, was a guest this past Sunday on my "Crime and Punishment"
national radio show.I'd brought him on to talk about his group's recent "graduation" ceremony in Alberta and comments Sliwa had made about a "crisis in crime" he said was occurring in both Calgary and Edmonton.It wasn't long before talk quickly turned to Winnipeg.After all, we were at the tail end of a weekend which had seen two men killed, another two shot and wounded and another pair stabbed in six apparently separate incidents.And those were just the crimes Winnipeg police had released to the public. (More on that in a future post)Sliwa was stunned by what he was hearing and immediately lumped Winnipeg into the same category as Calgary and Edmonton - which he'd previously compared to major U.S. cities battling huge crime rates.A few callers quickly jumped on Sliwa for what they felt was an unfair analysis. Others, however, thought he was right on the mark.
Sliwa said Winnipeg is ripe for his group to set up shop. Wearing their trademark red berets, the Guardian Angels are comprised of unarmed volunteers who receive three months training in martial arts and self-defence and patrol crime-ridden neighbourhoods in groups of four or more.What has made them somewhat controversial in some people's eyes is the fact they will exercise their right to make citizen's arrests when they see trouble unfolding.This has left police and politicians in some communities fearful of endorsing what they see as a group of vigilantes.I don't buy it. All we ever seem to hear from police is how backlogged they are, how resources are being stretched to the limit and how response times aren't what they should be.Barely a day goes by at the Free Press that we don't hear from someone complaining about the actions - or inactions - of the police.At any given time on any given day, there may be dozens or perhaps hundreds of calls for service waiting in the queue.That's not acceptable. And police would be the first to admit it. They're doing all they can under trying circumstances and clearly need help.Enter the Guardian Angels. Can anyone honestly say the thought of a large group of visible members walking through the North End and downtown areas in the middle of the night wouldn't offer some comfort that currently isn't there?The Guardian Angels are currently in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto. Sliwa said Halifax will be their next stop, with Regina and Saskatoon to follow soon.So what is Winnipeg waiting for?Sliwa said he will visit the city later this fall to make a personal pitch. Let's hope local leaders roll out the red carpet for the red berets.