The Winnipeg Police Service unveiled its violent-crime reduction strategy to lukewarm reviews at city hall, where normally supportive politicians damned the long-awaited plan with faint praise.

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Police Chief Keith McCaskill says law enforcement is one part of the equation when it comes to cutting crime.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Police Chief Keith McCaskill says law enforcement is one part of the equation when it comes to cutting crime.

The Winnipeg Police Service unveiled its violent-crime reduction strategy to lukewarm reviews at city hall, where normally supportive politicians damned the long-awaited plan with faint praise.

On Friday, the police announced a wide-ranging strategic road map for the next three years that covers everything from downtown safety and traffic enforcement to a new code of ethics for police officers and the need to hire a full-time police psychologist.

The centrepiece of the plan is a violent-crime reduction strategy that includes targets for reducing three categories of offences.

By 2014, the service intends to reduce the number of sexual assaults and strong-arm robberies in Winnipeg by three per cent and also cut down assaults by nine per cent.

In an effort to combat violent crime in general, the police service pledged to step up patrols of downtown Winnipeg and other high-crime areas, create a database of people likely to commit violent crimes, step up enforcement of apartment buildings where violent crime has been a problem and work with the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission to reduce alcohol abuse.

Police Chief Keith McCaskill described the strategy as "a fluid plan" where the objective is to use intelligence and statistical analysis to monitor crime hot spots and individuals more effectively than the service has done in the past.

"We believe that targeting specific areas is important," McCaskill told reporters at the Public Safety Building. "Things may change as we progress, but our goal is to put resources where they need to be, and we're doing that."

In a year when Winnipeg has broken its record for homicides -- 35 have been recorded to date -- city council has been desperate to hear what the police plan to do to combat violent crime.

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz said he would like more ambitious crime-reduction targets. "Honestly speaking, I would like them to be higher," Katz told reporters. "But they want to come up with numbers they believe they can attain."

Protection committee chairwoman Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo), meanwhile, called the strategy "a good first pass" that may not put Winnipeggers at ease.

"I would have liked to see something a little stronger," she said, noting some of the plan's objectives have already been met.

"There are concerns in the community about homicide, guns and access to guns."

Preventing homicide is difficult because of the unpredictable, individualistic nature of the offence, said McCaskill, noting 11 of the 35 homicides this year involved intoxicated victims and few were premeditated.

Homicide numbers fluctuate, agreed Katz, who added he's pleased the new plan will make the police service accountable, repeating his long-standing desire to ensure additional funding spent on policing results in safer streets.

Katz said former police chief Jack Ewatski asked for more resources to combat crime but did not produce a strategic plan.

Katz declined to ask why it took four years for McCaskill to produce his plan: "Just because there wasn't a plan on paper, I don't think you can come to the conclusion there wasn't a plan."

Aspects of the violent-crime reduction strategy were put in place as early as June, said McCaskill, adding the new direction has already allowed the police to meet with some success.

From January to October of this year, the police recorded 6,632 assaults, robberies, homicides and other violent incidents, compared with 7,199 incidents during the same 10 months of 2010, McCaskill said.

The police service achieved this through a combination of targeting crime hot spots and individuals, deploying more officers and redeploying other officers with the help of new auxiliary cadets and the police helicopter said McCaskill, who also credited community groups.

"We're part of the solution but there are so many different groups that are doing a lot of things, too," he said, repeating his long-standing view the police can't do the work of social service agencies.

"It is not only enforcement that is going to make a change. I've said many times there are many social issues (that) contribute to violent crime," he said, referring to poverty and family breakdown.

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