Winnipeg’s new police chief, Devon Clunis, paid us a visit recently.
Due to changes in administration, Clunis will be the first police chief who doesn’t report to the City CAO; instead, he will report directly to the newly formed Winnipeg police board.
However, on Tues., April 2 he was reporting to the citizens of River Heights when local councillor John Orlikow arranged a community forum at the Sir John Franklin Community Centre.
Clunis came along, accompanied by 17 of his officers, and took the opportunity to share his vision for creating a culture of safety in partnership within the community.
But what are our policing issues in River Heights?
Well, for a start, we don’t have a police station close by. Being part of District 6, our nearest station is on Pembina Highway just south of McGillivray Boulevard. However, that may soon change as Clunis revealed that District 6 will soon be merging with St. James and a new, larger police station will be built on Grant Avenue and shared by the two districts.
Fortunately, though, River Heights is not a hotbed of crime. The police website reported only 12 crimes in River Heights over the past month. Three vehicle thefts, one robbery and eight break and enters, five of which were at residential properties.
Some may say that’s 12 too many, but realistically, we are not going to eradicate crime.
So what is being done?
Well, the value of working together as a community was stressed. Get to know your neighbours and what is going on in the neighbourhood. Report all issues to the police, no matter how trivial. Maybe they won’t respond immediately to minor issues, but they will be logged and recorded and possibly resolved at some point in the future.
Poverty and poor social conditions were identified as one of the key characteristics behind many crimes in our city, and it was pointed out that these are not always inner-city issues.
Clive Wightman, director of community services for the City of Winnipeg, explained how some children turn up for school both hungry and inadequately dressed. His department is working to resolve these issues not only by providing the necessities for the children, but also by offering courses on parenting skills and social and sports programs aimed at youth in need.
One disgruntled audience member complained of the high cost of overtime for police officers attending traffic court and how this money would be better deployed addressing issues of more violent crimes.
Another lady bemoaned the lack of after-school activities for at-risk youth and asked what she could do.
Bike to the Future complained of a lack of common courtesy shown to cyclists in general. Clunis stated that he too was a cyclist and would do all he could to support this issue.
Jamaican-born Clunis grew up in a house with no electricity or running water, then came to Winnipeg when he was 12 years old. He is a 25-year veteran of the Winnipeg Police Service and for the past 12 years he has also functioned as the police chaplain.
A man of deep conviction, we’re also hoping he’s a man of action who can implement some of these strategies and help reduce crime city-wide.
Trevor Smith is a community correspondent for River Heights.