Spate of high-profile crimes has some calling Winnipeg 'mini-Detroit'
By Chinta Puxley, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG - First, a woman was shot dead at a weekend wedding reception when a gunman fired on the crowd through an open back door.
Then, a toddler was badly beaten against a city sidewalk after being taken by a stranger during a drinking party in the middle of the night.
Days later, an eight-month-old baby from the same housing complex was taken to hospital in serious condition after being slashed in the face with a golf club during an alleged domestic dispute.
This past Tuesday, a man who went to investigate a noise outside his home was set on fire. On the same day, police confirmed that a 29-year-old woman had died in hospital after allegedly being beaten for trying to shoplift. The woman's friends say the dispute was over a can of meat.
Although Winnipeg's crime rate is actually going down, the recent spate of high-profile - and horrific - crimes has shone an unflattering spotlight on the city. While many residents insist it's nothing out of the ordinary, others are scratching their heads and wondering what is going on.
"Personally I'm trying to decide between Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary or Vancouver on where to move me and my family to," one man wrote this week on an online discussion board at newwinnipeg.com.
"I'm born and raised here but enough is enough. I live in the west end and crime is out of control, in particular random attacks. A dear friend of mine is in (hospital) as I type this after being mugged by two people for seven bucks. I know the other cities have their problems, but they're nowhere near as bad as Winnipeg. This city is turning into mini-Detroit."
"I've lived in Winnipeg, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City," said another online poster. "Winnipeg, without a doubt, has the most crime statistically when it comes to violent crime, poverty, murder and car theft."
Rick Linden, professor of sociology at the University of Manitoba, said western Canadian cities have always had higher crime rates relative to other parts of the country. And, he said, Winnipeg has always ranked near the top.
Last year, Statistics Canada put Winnipeg No. 1 on the violent crime severity index, despite an 11 per cent drop year-over-year.
The city is growing rapidly and has a high concentration of poverty - both factors that help fuel crime, Linden said.
"We have way too much crime," he said. "The fact that there have been a few highly publicized incidents is just business as usual. It's not that there is any great wave. Winnipeg is a high-crime city."
The disturbing events over the last few weeks have only cemented that reputation, he added. At a recent conference Linden attended, his peers made jokes about Winnipeg saying, "that's a city I don't want to go to because of all the crime."
Politicians and police are feeling the heat, with some residents asking if the city is safe.
"It's been a bad week or two to say the least," said Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz. "It's notice to us all that there are some problems we need to address."