Efforts to crack down on crime in one of the most violent areas of Winnipeg are paying off, according to recent stats from the Winnipeg Police Service, however, local residents say the community needs to step up its role in helping out.
In April, police reported violent crime dropped 19% in 2012 across a 21-block area of the North End bordered by Dufferin Avenue in the south, McGregor Street in the west, Burrows Avenue in the north and Salter Street in the east.
"We’ve certainly put extra resources into that area," said Inspector Cam Baldwin, divisional commander of Division 13.
The area is one of the most violent parts of the city, fuelled by low socio-economic statuses and a transient population, said Baldwin.
Last year, the area saw a 33% drop in sexual assaults, down from 21 to 14 incidents, according to stats.
The area also saw a 26% drop in robberies, from 73 to 54 incidents. There was also a 100% drop in homicides, down from three in 2011 to zero.
As part of the police’s violent crime reduction strategy, police dedicated a cruiser car to patrol the area 24-7, as well as mandated officers to build a rapport with local groups, Baldwin said.
Officers assigned to the car, dubbed the 89 Unit, walk the beat and are expected to network with social services groups and residents’ associations.
Partnerships with the North End Renewal Corporation or BUILD, a non-profit contractor and training program, allow police to direct scofflaws to community resources.
"When we encounter these kids, we can say, ‘Hey there’s some other options here for you, too,’" said Baldwin.
"It’s crime prevention through community development."
Annette Champion-Taylor of the William Whyte Residents Association say members of her group have noticed the decrease.
"It seemed a year ago every other day something was happening," she said.
"We’ve always been a high-crime neighbourhood. We know that there’s always going to be issues and crime, but knowing it’s on a downward spin is definitely encouraging."
The police are continuing to run the 89 unit cruiser car in the area, Baldwin said.
However, Champion-Taylor said police can’t be at all places at all times.
"We always remind people that we are eyes and ears to get people aware that they need to step up to the plate," she said.
The WWRA has about 10 members actively part of its Citizens on Patrol Program, walking or driving the streets and keeping an eye out for trouble. The group is always looking for more people to help report suspicious activity, from illegal dumping to derelict buildings to suspected drug houses.
"I don’t mean stand on your porch and wave your flag," said Champion-Taylor, noting police have been usually quick to respond to requests and complaints from the group.
"If you don’t hear from the community how do know there’s a problem?"