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St. James couple shaken by police indifference after burglars ransack home

A St. James man says he’s lost faith in Winnipeg police and was terrified when officers didn’t respond to his 911 call after he awoke to two people robbing his home.

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A St. James man says he’s lost faith in Winnipeg police and was terrified when officers didn’t respond to his 911 call after he awoke to two people robbing his home.

Jamie Painchaud and his wife Sydney Todd were sleeping when two people broke into their home at about 5:30 a.m. Aug. 6.

Awakened by noises from the downstairs area, Painchaud saw the thieves ransacking the couple’s home which, at that point, was in complete disarray. The pair fled when he got downstairs, and he went back upstairs to call 911.

He expected police to show up at his door and begin collecting evidence, but no one arrived.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Jamie Painchaud and his wife Sydney Todd were sleeping when two people broke into their home at about 5:30 a.m. Aug. 6.

“I was terrified and angry at the same time, knowing that they could have come back and finished what they started. There was nobody there to stop them,” Painchaud told the Free Press.

“I was terrified and angry at the same time, knowing that they could have come back and finished what they started. There was nobody there to stop them.” – Jamie Painchaud

“And then, a few hours later, when I called back, and they just said, ‘Sorry, no one’s had a chance to come. There’s no available officers.’ That was not an answer I was expecting.”

Painchaud said the hours passed but he heard no word from the Winnipeg Police Service. When days went by, the couple eventually took the case into their own hands, canvassing their neighbourhood seeking security-camera footage, and five days later Painchaud reached out to his NDP MLA, Adrien Sala, with his frustrations. The next morning, he received a call from a police clerk, which he believes resulted from his complaint to Sala.

“They told me that it started off as high priority, and the more they didn’t get to it, it became lower priority till it was a police report,” he said. “That’s not the way crime should be dealt with.”

Sala said he’s heard concerns from constituents that there’s been an uptick of similar crimes in the Madison Square area, where Painchaud lives.

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Adrien Sala, MLA for St. James, said he’s heard concerns from constituents that there’s been an uptick of similar crimes in the Madison Square area, where Jamie Painchaud lives.

“We’ve tried to do what we can to address what we think are some of the root causes of crime, like poverty and a lack of housing,” he said.

The thieves made off with items in the couple’s home with a combined value, Painchaud estimates, of $30,000.

“It was — it still is — terrifying. We’re not really sleeping through the night, and the anxiety and the stress is draining,” he said.

A property crimes division officer contacted Painchaud last Friday and later visited. Painchaud isn’t satisfied.

“Any evidence that was present is degraded at this point,” he said. “I’ve had to clean my house, so there’s much less chance they’re going to get fingerprints or anything off anything,” he said. “Not that I think they’re ever going to do that.”

“Any evidence that was present is degraded at this point… I’ve had to clean my house, so there’s much less chance they’re going to get fingerprints or anything off anything.” – Jamie Painchaud

WPS Const. Jay Murray confirmed an investigation is underway, and said the call was assigned as an urgent priority, but the call had been received after the suspects had fled and emergency intervention was not needed.

“We are very sympathetic to those who have to wait for the police to respond, but it is a reality of a limited resource based-system where we are being asked to respond to more calls than we ever have before,” Murray said in an email.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

“We are very sympathetic to those who have to wait for the police to respond, but it is a reality of a limited resource based-system where we are being asked to respond to more calls than we ever have before,” said Constable Jay Murray in an email.

Winnipeg Police Association president Mo Sabourin pointed the blame at chief Danny Smyth, who he said has the opportunity to redeploy police resources where they’re most needed but is choosing not to.

“Ten years ago, you would have had a cruiser car show up to your house that same day, take fingerprints, give you appropriate advice about crime prevention, what you could do or should do in the future to help prevent these types of things,” the union leader said.

“And now, the chief wants you to call in and use your video phone to take a picture of your home that’s been broken into and then not even send somebody to take fingerprints.”

The WPS received, on average, 1,839 calls to its communication centre and dispatched officers to 641 incidents per day in 2021, according to its most recent annual report. Winnipeg police received 671,364 calls in 2021, the highest per-year count in the past five years.

”The chief wants you to call in and use your video phone to take a picture of your home that’s been broken into and then not even send somebody to take fingerprints.” – Mo Sabourin

According to the same report, 9.2 per cent of property crimes and 13.3 per cent of break-and-enter incidents investigated by the WPS were cleared last year.

Winnipeg Police Cause Harm organizer Rebecca Hume said more money for police wouldn’t change the metrics, because the police are overfunded now.

“By the police’s own standards, what they say that they’re doing is not working,” she said. “It’s our position that rather than continue to dump resources into reactive, racist and anti-poor policing, that we should be cutting the police budget and reallocating funding to things that actually keep people safe, and actually help sustain our communities in the long run.”

Painchaud and Todd said they don’t feel safe in their own home now. Painchaud has existing anxiety that’s been worsened by the incident and police response and Todd is suffering from panic attacks and is fearful of being left alone in the house.

“I don’t have any faith that they’ll show up if something worse happens,” Painchaud said.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Jamie Painchaud and wife Sydney Todd. Painchaud said the hours passed after his complaint but he heard no word from the Winnipeg Police Service.

malak.abas@freepress.mb.ca

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Jamie Painchaud and fiancé Sydney Todd were broken into while they were home on Saturday August 6 are photographed at their home in Winnipeg Monday, August 15, 2021. The couple didn’t receive a police response for 5 days.
Malak Abas

Malak Abas
Reporter

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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