A group of William Whyte community members are working hard to make their neighbourhood a cleaner, safer place.
Annette Champion-Taylor, volunteer and program co-ordinator for the William Whyte Residents Association (WWRA), as well as other members of the North End community, participate in the Citizens on Patrol Program (COPP).
Sponsored by Manitoba Public Insurance, COPP has over 70 active groups and approximately 1,700 volunteers committed to reducing crime within their communities (www.mpi.mb.ca).
Starting at the WWRA office (295 Pritchard Ave.), the William Whyte COPP group tours the neighbourhood whenever they can, either on foot or by car, the latter being the most frequently used mode of transport during the winter months.
"We’ll drive down back lanes or front streets looking for illegal dumping issues. Illegal dumping isn’t just unsightly, it’s a fire hazard," said Champion-Taylor, 50, a longtime resident of William Whyte.
When the COPP group comes across illegal dumping, they document the time, place and severity of the situation. When the group returns to the William Whyte Residents Association office (295 Pritchard Ave.), they call any issues into 311. For matters like gang graffiti and prostitution, the COPP group will call the Winnipeg Police Service directly.
Champion-Taylor said the City of Winnipeg has been very co-operative with COPP, with bylaw enforcement quick to investigate any situations the group calls in. She said the William Whyte community has also embraced COPP.
"When we go walking, it’s kind of PR for us, and we never get harassed," Champion-Taylor said. "Very often people stop to talk to us, ask us what we’re doing, say how great it is and how we need more people like us in the area."
Champion-Taylor said there’s no reason why more community members can’t get in on the action, even if it isn’t with COPP.
"A lot of this you can do in your own home," she said. "You see a problem, you go home and you report it. How the heck would anybody know? It’s totally anonymous."
Despite its challenges, Champion-Taylor said William Whyte is a great place to live.
"I don’t live here by income level, I could live wherever I want, but we just are fine with where we are," said Champion-Taylor, who moved to the area over 20 years from Transcona.
"It’s not like everyone thinks. You get people that are scared to drive in the neighbourhood. Do you think they’re really shooting bullets at us and we’re dodging them?
"But, you do need to be careful, like anywhere else."