Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dear Winnipeg

I am writing this to you from 15 stories in the air, looking over downtown Winnipeg from the balcony of my apartment. I chose to move my laptop from my living room to the balcony because I wanted to see and hear what I love about you, while I write you a letter you most likely will not appreciate.

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.


Vanessa said...

Amen. This city has a lot to offer, it really is too bad that it is tainted with so much crime.

I love downtown, despite its difficulties.

Andrea said...

I hear ya. Living & working downtown & walking everywhere, I see a lot of things that disgust & enrage me. While the push is on for more people to move downtown like we did, nothing seems to be done to ensure our right to be safe.

Doug McArthur said...

Having only lived in downtown Winnipeg for a few months, I can only weigh in so much on this topic without displaying a certain naivete. I will say that during my time as a downtown resident, I've been privy to all sorts of shady goings-on whilst walking around the neighborhood. On top of that I, too have the birds-eye view from my place on the 18th floor of my building. From up here, things look pretty quaint, but on the ground, I never feel quite as ease as I did when I lived in the 'burbs.

Then again, I haven't been pepper sprayed since I moved downtown - which is something that did actually happen to me when I lived in St. Vital. But that story's for another day.

Kudos on your plea to clean up the city. But what's your plan?

insomniaclolita said...

Good letter, whenever the crime rate is high I think it makes people stop enjoy the city that they even love.:( It's sad.

Kinda happens in some areas in Jakarta. Lucky me my city is too big and I don't live in those areas, nor play there.

L.L. said...

I'm not sure what more I can personally do, besides not stealing cars, dealing drugs, joining a gang or robbing people.

Oats said...

Be like Dexter and start killing off problematic people one by one :p

I think you should print this letter and mail it to your local government officials. They are the ones who will ultimately choose what action needs to take place.

Anonymous said...

I think many of the things you say are important.

But you need to put things into perspective, and be less dramatic.

Remove the word Winnipeg from your article and drop any other big city name.

That’s reality.

On the drama...

I hardly see any graffiti downtown, so what are you talking about?

There is more purse snatching and car thefts at Polo Park and St. Vital than the downtown. So how do you refute stats and label the downtown as bad.

There is more drug dealing going on Corydon then Portage Place. Never mind all the gun play. So I don’t get what you are saying.

And the gang of girls started their rampage near polo park. They beat up on 4 people, including the poor women in the Downtown. So please, do not make crime a downtown issue. It’s a city wide issue.

Less drama, more facts. Or your just part of the problem. Like the media.

And you can do something to help.

Do you want to make change?

Put things into perspective; don’t just accept what people tell you or what you read because by repeating misleading information you become part of the issue in creating the wrong perception. Roll up your sleeves and start picking up litter on your block, join a local community watch program, report all crime, and be smart about living downtown. This is not River Heights.

L.L. said...

Anon- If you don't see the graffiti downtown you aren't looking hard enough. Secondly - Sure, Winnipeg has crime everywhere and yes, every city does - but this city also puts a MASSIVE focus on trying to revitalize downtown.

Also - you've missed the point completely as this is a letter FROM ME to the city. I live and work downtown. I've lived in the burbs. I don't dodge gang bangers and sniffers and drunks when I visit the Maples.

Also - I'm interested in how you say there's more drug dealing on Corydon and chastise me for not having facts to back up my claims, yet offer none of your own.

And as far as the media is concerned - I have worked for three major news agencies in this town - you have no idea the amount of crime that we did not report because there just isn't enough time to cover every gas station robbery, purse snatching, vandalism spree, etc.

I'm very aware of what it's like to live downtown as this is where I spend all my time. I don't spend eight hours a day here, I spend 24 hours a day. I live amongst the filth. I know how to live smart in this area, but that's because I'm not blind. I report crime, routinely as it happens all the time around here. If I were part of the problem I'd be hightailing it out of downtown to live in the River Heights et al areas and never set foot outside of it. Like the politicians that encourage people like me to live downtown.

Anonymous said...

The downtown has a darn good litter removal program.

If there is graffiti or litter phone the Downtown BIZ at 958-4640. I work downtown and I phone all the time and the issue is usually gone in 24 hours.

Also, the same Downtown BIZ group has a new safety program with resources for those that live downtown too.

See here


The issues are there. But at least there are some good resources out there to help.

Its up to the public to play a role too.

L.L. said...

Ooooh I loooooooove the downtown biz patrol. Translation: I laugh at the useless red shirts. They patrol the community from the safety of the skywalk all winter, and in the summer they're just there to work on their tans. I watched a man get the shit kicked out of him on Hargrave and while I was on the phone with the cops, the red shirts showed up and did NOTHING to help. I pointed out where the people who beat the guy up were. They didn't call for help, they just went, "um, ok. Thanks for calling the cops." Unless you need a walk to your car, those idiots don't do anything, or have any real power.

Anonymous said...

What is the biz patrol? I think you are referring to the Downtown Watch.

You complain about the downtown not being safe, then you speak negative about a group that is trying to make the downtown safer. Go figure.

Judging by the web site I would say they are making a difference. I see them all the time helping the homeless, walking people places and even breaking up fights, and other things. They are pretty much everywhere, walking with the police and on their bikes.

Don’t get me wrong; I would rather see cops on the beat. But its clear that is not about to happen.

And I doubt the Watch are useless, given the fact that they actually have powers of arrest, and most of them become police officers. They are young, but judging by what I see on a weekly basis I would hate to see our downtown without the Watch people. The downtown would suffer. Plus most of them are volunteers, like a neighborhood watch program. I think these types of programs are important and involve the community in help reduce crime by having more eyes and ears on the street.

I get monthly emails from them. See here too

Bottom left hand corer to subscribe. They send out update on everything going on in the downtown.

L.L. said...

Listen - we are going to have to agree to disagree on this, as I have never once seen the red shirts do anything useful. Not once. I'm thrilled they help the homeless - but they should probably focus more on helping the regular joes who work downtown who want to feel comfortable walking around without being hassled for money and cigarettes.

Downtown is a cesspool from about 7:30am - 6pm... after that, the problem seems to dry up, simply because there's just aren't alot of people around to hustle for smokes and change.

Trust me - I've been working downtown for about four years now. I used to be such a huge advocate for getting people to live/work down here, thinking it would somehow help the situation. But it gets progressively worse each year, and they keep bringing more and more people down here to work - and nothing changes. It's sad.

L.L. said...

By the way - downtown is the only place I've ever had the chance to buy a computer monitor for five bucks. It's a magical place that way... ha ha.

Anonymous said...

I think part of the problem is that people like you can't seem to get past the poor looking folk on Portage Avenue. And you equate that with crime. Which is wrong.

Because people are poor, look like gang bangers, are smelly and not clean, and yes aboriginal (since you don't have the courage to say it), and some panhandle, does not mean they are part of what you call a cesspool.

That is on sad statement you make.

Wake up and smell the coffee the downtown is bursting with wonderful things to do and see, every day.

It a matter of perspective and how you view life.

I honestly think you would be better off living in River Heights.

L.L. said...

Clearly YOU need to control the racist shit. There is no place for that on this blog. I never once said nor insinuate aboriginals are a problem downtown. Not once. There are all kinds of bad people in this world, and in our downtown, and it has fuck all to do with race. The smelly, poor gangbangers you speak of clearly come in all shapes, sizes and colours. So fuck your racist ass. Don't comment on this blog with shit like that EVER AGAIN.

And yes - panhandlers, gang bangers and people that stink are EXACTLY what contributes to what I call the cesspool. These people make a lot of other people uncomfortable and not want to be in our downtown, which I think is really unfortunate. I have a lot of love for downtown, as it has great restaurants and grocery stores (all in which are places I spend my money). I just don't love that these people make me want to second guess my choice to live here. I have to look out for me. I have to make choices in my daily life to keep me safe. That's just reality.

And I know you think you've got me soooooo figured out, but nothing would be more awful than for me to live in a place like River Heights.