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Local crime watch group shutting down

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Citizens for Crime Awareness District 4 president Tony Sorto and vice-president Rudy Puttkamer are shown outside the WInnipeg Police Service's community service centre at 1400 Henderson Hwy., which closed last month.

PHOTO BY DAN FALLOON Enlarge Image

Citizens for Crime Awareness District 4 president Tony Sorto and vice-president Rudy Puttkamer are shown outside the WInnipeg Police Service's community service centre at 1400 Henderson Hwy., which closed last month. Photo Store

Citizens for Crime Awareness is shutting down operations in northeast Winnipeg.

The local group’s District 4 chapter decided to call it quits in January after the Winnipeg Police Service’s community service centre at 1400 Henderson Hwy. closed on Dec. 29. The chapter had a small rent-free office in the building, to hold its filing cabinets and computer equipment, so losing it was the last straw after seeing the number of volunteers decline in recent years.

"We’re closing because it’s a dead end," said president and North Kildonan resident Tony Sorto, 50. "Six years ago, there were a lot of people, and a lot of people wanted to do it, they felt attached to it."

Sorto was thankful for those who helped out the organization in the past, including the volunteers and the WPS, but worries there will be consequences to having less community-level crime prevention.

"Vandalism is going to increase, I know it," he said.

The group, which had a close working relationship with local police, organized community meetings and other events to keep residents abreast of various crime concerns in the community. The group met at Valley Gardens Community Centre.

"We’d tell everybody about the issues that were happening, or they’d tell us issues or concerns," Sorto said.

Vice-president Rudy Puttkamer, 60, who also lives in North Kildonan, added the group held meetings with gang members who were released from jail, women who worked in the sex trade, while also addressing other important issues. The group would appear at local festivals like Happy Days on Henderson in order to further its community outreach efforts.

Puttkamer said several of the group’s members were also involved in Neighbourhood Watch efforts, but the police recently scaled back community involvement in the Neighbourhood Watch program.

"This thing’s been winding down for a while, but earlier on, toward the end of last year, the police cancelled the block captain’s call-out log," he said. "If you had a break-in on your street, and somebody phoned it in, (police) would phone the block captain and tell them the particulars."

The Winnipeg Police Service will continue to operate the Neighbourhood Watch program, and those looking to get involved can call 204-986-6322 for more information.

Puttkamer said police are now encouraging those looking to keep up with local crime trends to visit the Crimestat page on the City of Winnipeg website, but he pointed out not everyone has computer access, and noted the site goes into far less detail than block captains received before.

"You go look under house break-ins, and it tells you the day and the address — the 100 block of Gateway (for example). It doesn’t tell you anything else," he said. "It doesn’t tell you the nature of the crime, if it was an attempt, if it was an actual, if stuff was stolen. It tells you nothing."

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