I love you Winnipeg. I was born and raised here, and I've always been proud to tell people I am a Winnipegger. Even when I moved away for a brief stint out west (as many of us young people are prone to do), I longed for you so much so, that I came home quickly. I only lasted about five months away before I ventured home. I've never been so happy to not see a mountain in my life.
You're home to me, and that's what makes this letter so hard to write.
I have to talk to you about the crime. It's getting too crazy. Even for me. I was once a big advocate for living, working, and playing downtown. I currently live right in the thick of downtown Winnipeg, and work only three blocks away from my apartment.
Today, I heard Winnipeg Police have arrested two 15 year old girls for robbing and attacking three women with an axe, even sending one to hospital with head injuries. That incident happened just four blocks from my home, one block from my work.
There have been past instances where young auto thieves have stolen cars and tried to intentionally run down the police officers you employee to protect your citizens and your streets. In fact, there was also a group of these young fools who were responsible for the death of a cab driver just over a year ago. They piled into two SUVs (stolen, obviously) and tried to speed away from the police. In the end, an innocent taxi driver was dead.
There are daily reports of purse snatchings downtown, suburban gas station robberies and gang activity in and around the North End. At a certain time of night (and even day) you can drive around and see hookers as young as 13 (I'm guessing), selling themselves on the streets to support drug habits.
There is graffiti everywhere, not only on the walls of local businesses, but on the homes and garages of hard working people just trying to earn a living to keep up that home.
Certain parts of this city look like a warzone.
Winnipeg, I know you have so many wonderful things to offer your citizens. The Festival du Voyageur warms our freezing hearts in the dead of February. When Folklorama comes to town in August, everyone becomes a citizen of the world, touring the many pavilions showcasing the vast cultures that make this city so great. There is a ton of green space here for everyone to take advantage of when the weather is just right.
Yet I have to wonder if the rampant crime in this city is keeping people from enjoying it.
I don't profess to have the answers to the crime and gang activity. I don't know how to stop auto theft or purse snatchings or arsons. I don't think it's my job to have those answers.
Winnipeg - you must do something.
I am one of your biggest supporters and yet I am finding a hard time always seeing the brighter side of things where you're concerned. As a downtown resident, I wonder if I should be leaving my purse at home and carry only the bare essentials so as to not be a target for the next violent attack.
I would like to believe I am paranoid, but I have a feeling I am not. I'm more likely to believe I'm just on a hot streak. I hope by writing this I am not testing my luck.
I'm not threatening to leave you. Chances are good I will grow old and die here no matter how much worse this place gets, simply because it's home. But if this city keeps up with it's downward spiral, others will leave. Or they will avoid your parks, your attractions, all in the name of avoiding your criminal element.
I know there are many people who work downtown who can't get out of it and back to the suburbs fast enough at the end of the work day. I know there are people who will go to great lengths to avoid heading to Portage Place to shop because of all the thugs and drug dealers who have made that place their haunt. I know there are so many people who are just too terrified to give downtown a chance.
But the crime will always find it's way to where they live, the suburbs. What will happen when they've been scared away from there?
Please Winnipeg, take this blanket letter for what it's worth: a plea for the people that run you to stop running you into the ground. More needs to be done to clean you up.
Tell me how I can help. I'll do what I can.