Wishing crime away is a fool’s errand


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/08/2022 (280 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

People gazed in wonder, and no doubt many made wishes, as the sky was lit up by two astronomical phenomena recently: the “sturgeon moon,” the last “super-moon” of the year; and the Perseid meteor shower, an annual display of “shooting stars.”

On the ground, and on the same weekend, two fires lit up the Lord Roberts community in South Osborne: one of them set to the “little library” on Kylemore Avenue; the other to a car parked nearby, on Berwick Place.

No doubt people wondered why such senseless acts of destruction had taken place, and wished they hadn’t.

It was an eventful weekend in the neighbourhood from start to finish. Two days earlier, two off-duty transit drivers were assaulted on Brandon Avenue, in the vicinity of Winnipeg Transit’s South Osborne garage.

Just half-an-hour later, city police responded to an assault on the southeast sidewalk of the Osborne Bridge. According to early reports, a police spokesman could not confirm whether the man was stabbed, or had been shot.

Crime always seems to be a talking point in our city. It was not long ago that Winnipeg went on an unfortunate run of several years where it was the murder and violent crime capital of Canada. It has since dropped in the rankings, to second place – behind only Thunder Bay, Ont.

That wasn’t the only time Winnipeg earned an unenviable title. At the turn of the millennium, as many readers likely remember, it held a different one: arson capital of Canada.

Back in 1999, Winnipeg averaged about 3,500 fires per year, of which roughly 42 per cent were set deliberately. The national average at the time was only 17 per cent.

The rash of arsons forced the city to respond with the creation of an “arson strike force,” and according to a Maclean’s article from the time, within 10 weeks the fires “decreased dramatically.”

It was a joint effort headed by police and firefighters that included investigations, but also a massive cleanup effort, school education programs, volunteer foot patrols, and extending the hours of 15 school gyms, three public swimming pools, and two recreation centres.

As it faded from the public consciousness, the problems returned. On Sept. 8, 2012, Winnipeg’s fire department officially withdrew its support, citing insufficient funding – even as the number of arsons spiked to the highest level in years.

Two years later, we elected a new mayor in Brian Bowman, and we will elect a new mayor again this October. It is a crowded field, and hopefuls have proposed bold solutions to remedy the city’s social ills.

But if we go back to ignoring them between election cycles, we might as well try wishing them away on a shooting star.

Andrew Braga

Andrew Braga
South Osborne community correspondent

Andrew Braga is a community correspondent for South Osborne.

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