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North End cleaner, safer: review

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Levett Demchuk (left) and Annette Champion-Taylor of the William Whyte Residents Association hit the streets as part of the Citizens on Patrol Program.

PHOTO BY JORDAN THOMPSON Enlarge Image

Levett Demchuk (left) and Annette Champion-Taylor of the William Whyte Residents Association hit the streets as part of the Citizens on Patrol Program. Photo Store

The North End is cleaner and safer according to a 2013 performance review by the City of Winnipeg.

A city statement issued on Mon., Dec. 9 stated there is "less garbage accumulating on private property as a result of the Working Together to Improve Neighbourhood Liveability mandate," and that the "number of vacant and derelict buildings in Winnipeg has decreased by 32%, from 577 as of Oct. 31, 2010 to 392 as of Oct. 31, 2013."

Neighbourhoods in the North End that have seen the biggest reduction in vacant buildings include Dufferin, North Point Douglas, Weston and William Whyte.

The improvements are being attributed to collaboration between bylaw enforcement and community associations. According to the city’s statement, five yard-to-yard bylaw inspection sweeps have been conducted in the North End since April.

"We work very closely with bylaw enforcement and Winnipeg police too, working with the community support unit officers," said Annette Champion-Taylor, volunteer and program co-ordinator for the William Whyte Residents Association.

"I think the big difference with City of Winnipeg bylaw officers and the bylaw department itself, when you can work and have direct contact with someone on a regular basis, it’s very different than just calling 311. You don’t just get an intake person, but an actual person who’s going to go out and investigate the situation. That really has made a very big difference."

Champion-Taylor and other members of the William Whyte Residents Association are also participants in the Manitoba Citizens on Patrol Program (COPP).

COPP participants walk the neighbourhood, looking for any suspicious activity. Recently, Champion-Taylor said she and her fellow patrollers came across a vacant, boarded-up building that was sealed shut, except for the back door, which was completely removed.

"Something like that is a serious problem. You’ll get squatters in there, people doing drugs or kids torching it," Champion-Taylor said.

"When we saw the problem we immediately called the police non-emergency line and they directed the call to the appropriate department."

"We try to keep our eyes on these kinds of properties. Sometimes a basement window is pried and people are getting in. Those are the kinds of things you want to watch for because nothing good will come of them."

Another neighbourhood patrol that is making a difference is the North End Community Renewal Corporation’s (NECRC) Ambassadors program. Not only are Ambassadors on the lookout for garbage and building issues, the program encourages the community to get involved in the action.

"That’s what the Ambassadors are all about, creating relationships and encouraging people to also be ambassadors in the community," said Rob Neufeld, executive director of NECRC.

Champion-Taylor said community members shouldn’t be afraid to report anything they see as being a potential problem.

"If someone torches a vacant building, not only is it gone, but maybe the neighbour’s house goes with it. It’s about trying your best to make the neighbourhood safer," she said.

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