GET SMART ON CRIME – IMMEDIATE ACTION IS REQUIRED
For over thirty years, I’ve been working the streets of Winnipeg as a cop. I’ve watched the Police service diminish under inefficiencies and the crime rates soar as the changing tide of policing focuses on administrative duties and less of actual crime fighting. I’ve heard my Chief, Danny Smyth, lament his growing fear- “This keeps me awake at night” & “the future looks bleak”. My question is: Why is no one listening?
A CALL TO ACTION
I have identified the inefficiencies that make our city the most unsafe and least desirable city to live and invest in. This can be fixed. I’m not suggesting theories or academic “expert” opinion, I’m providing first-hand experience with a proven record of results. I know how to start a successful business, work in a team environment, and earn the trust of a full spectrum of people. The result will be less waste in spending. We can start to enjoy a safer and better Winnipeg.
There is neither a single solution nor a single level of government that can fix the escalating problem but there are things that can be done. Here is how we get better.
EDUCATION AND FULL DISCLOSURE-
Politicians, Journalists and even the general public need to understand; police rarely arrest drug traffickers by chance. For thirty years, I have helped take drug traffickers off the streets of Winnipeg. With each investigation, I have learned something new and I am constantly reminded how dire the situation has become.
The problem today isn’t “Drugs”, but one specific drug. Again, Politicians and Journalists need to understand, we are not dealing with a crack epidemic or a cocaine problem, it’s not prescription drug abuse, or a dark web supplied super drug like carfentanyl. WE ARE IN A METH CRISIS AND EVERYONE IS AFFECTED. Methamphetamine, for the better part of the last decade, has been the primary concern for every emergency responder. The problem is worldwide, too – in The Philippines it is called shabu.
Having seen what happens when this problem is ignored, I am now relying on thirty years of insight and experience to help champion essential changes that will ensure your safety. It’s not fearmongering or political song and dance, as journalists would have you believe. The fact of the matter is that as a citizen of Winnipeg, you are in considerable more danger today, of being the victim of a violent crime or a property crime, than you were a few years ago. City Hall knows it as well – just ask the Mayor how much the security for him and those at city hall has increased. They have seen the numbers, they have the inside information, and they are frightened.
Recently, I attended an information session regarding the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre. I met with residents who voiced legitimate concerns about the facility opening in their area. As a citizen, I would have the same concerns, if not for the inside information that I possess after thirty years on the front lines of this burgeoning crisis. The true debate isn’t spawned from the callous “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) types nor is it the calls of politicians who proclaim this as a passion project for celebrities with their own agenda. The debate is due to the lack of information provided to citizens about the threat level at which this crisis is currently approaching. Where does this lack of information come from? Is it the police trying to protect investigative techniques? Is it the media, under-reporting on vulnerable citizens? Is it Politicians more concerned with their legacies? Some? All? None?
There was a time where journalism was more than the headline and a quote. Facts mattered. Politicians who master the “Instagram” approach to problem solving can “Trump” their way through every complex problem. There is an easy way to bring the media back into the fold: we need to integrate media with the Winnipeg Police Service Public Information Office. In this era of 24-hour news cycle, we need to allow credible news outlets to have a licensed, encrypted police scanner, so that they can hear firsthand how often meth and crime go hand in hand. It will be on them to start reporting the true nature of these crimes and not shelter the public from truths they deem we can’t handle. The WPS need to double the number of Information Officers – this can be achieved by utilizing officers with restrictions that prevent them from working on the street. The WPS need Executive coverage 24 hours and day, 7 days a week (we’ve all had to work night shifts) so that decisions can be made in an immediate and decisive manner.
Lastly, our information exchange with the media needs to improve. We can’t control how the media chooses to report the news but we can give them the information and thereby demand that they report facts as opposed to assumptions. Accuracy may be a lost art during the race to get the story tweeted first, but we can still get the information out there so that citizens can make an informed choice. With the media being held accountable to the truth, the politicians, who continually ignore the problem, will be accountable to the people.
THE IMMEDIATE ESSENTIAL CHANGES REQUIRED
Two decades ago, The Winnipeg Police Service introduced what was then a state of the art records management system called Niche. Now officers glumly describe it as “Niche from the 90’s”. Compare the average cellphone of today with the average cellphone of the 90’s and you realize the antiquated computer program your police officers are relying on to complete their work. Improving this system is a necessary and tremendous benefit to public safety. It will improve police response time – right now Winnipeg is 2 ½ times longer than other cities in Canada – because it will allow officers to do more police work and fewer administrative tasks, be more out in the neighbourhood and do less typing in the station. The need is not to hire more officers; the need is to have the ones we have to be doing more actual police work. The cost of this system is significantly less than the cost of consulting with engineers on how to open Portage and Main to traffic.
Immediate Response to 911 calls–
If you dialed 911, the Winnipeg Police Service used to respond to your emergency immediately. That was a quarter century ago. Now, if you make it to call-taker right away, your safety is categorized and crews are dispatched if you are deemed a priority. Currently, if a Transit driver is attacked by someone suffering a meth psychosis, the driver, if he can, pushes a button, which alerts his dispatcher, who then radios the driver to confirm an emergency. Depending on the response or lack thereof, the Transit Dispatcher will then contact the Police Dispatcher and provide the appropriate information. A call for service is entered and the information gets radioed to officers. If they are available, they will respond from whichever corner of the city they might be patrolling. I’ve been a part of this system for years. The problem is, when seconds count, we’re minutes away. An overhauled system would allow officers to respond in real time with GPS enabled locations and information with both video and audio aiding officers respond appropriately. If the information can be handled, quickly and accurately, we can return to those days, when cops are there when you need them.
METHAMPHETAMINE PSYCHOSIS INTAKE-
First responders have one option when dealing with a patient exhibiting meth induced psychosis: the local hospital. The waiting room is already packed with a host of people suffering their own trauma; having another patient sliding in front of them in the queue thanks to paramedics and police officers having no other options, creates anxiety, frustration and extended suffering. We need a secure medical facility, staffed and outfitted with appropriate resources to accommodate the increasing number of people addicted to this drug. People suffering from the effects of meth are a danger to themselves and everyone around them, so why are we bringing them to places where people are already at risk. In some situations, medical staff is unable to even begin to triage these patients until they have calmed or stabilized, yet they are occupying time and resources in the hospital, while those that need help are kept waiting.
Meth is a hard drug to recover from, and without help, people using meth will continue to do so. It takes eight months to a year to get straight and each time someone shoots up or smokes up, the recovery finish line gets further and further away. The cost of a facility designed to treat meth addictions is way lower than the ongoing cost of resources lost through medical care, police and paramedic requirements to treat these patients.
THE NEED FOR A LONGER TERM RECOVERY CENTRE-
A hospital is not the same as a recovery centre. Patients recovering from meth addiction cannot be housed in a hospital. Nor can they be treated while living at home, in a hotel, on a street or on their own. They need time, they need support, they need resources and they need hope. No amount of good parenting or intense treatment will ever trump a willingness to recover, but if you give the addict hope that they can recover, then they at least stand a fighting chance. The majority of my experience originates with apprehension and conviction, still I know that recovery is possible and I am willing to partner with those also willing to take up the challenge.
SMART ON CRIME vs STRONG ON CRIME
We have all heard the message that “we need to get stronger on crime”. It has been touted here, in the U.S., in England, the Philippines and elsewhere.
As it turns out, being “strong on crime” has little to no effect. Smart on Crime is the new approach and we need it now more than ever. This summer, I met with a group whose First Nation community has been devastated by methamphetamine. Their walk from the steps of their homes to the steps of our parliament in Ottawa, wasn’t just about raising awareness; it is a cry for help. I witnessed firsthand the anguish and pain methamphetamine leaves in its wake. Very few drug traffickers target the most impressionable and vulnerable for their drug sales as they themselves have now become what they hope to create: ADDICTS. As a result, the tentacles of this ever-spreading horror is resulting in more weapons, more violence, more victims and affecting more people than ever before.
Being Smart on Crime-
A fast, responsive system that provides up-to-the-second information is no longer a wishful indulgence, it is a vital necessity. As a citizen, I expect the same level of service, complete with accuracy, efficiency and accountability as any customer paying in the private sector. It is no longer acceptable that the quality of service provided to our taxpayers is sacrificed to accommodate short term budgets or redundant policymakers, whose sole purpose for involving themselves is to justify their own existence.
Front Line Workers in Winnipeg need to operate in a safe work environment in order to safely engage those suffering from methamphetamine addiction. This city is their workplace and if they can’t do their jobs safely, then the safety of its citizens is adversely affected. Each first responder and front line worker needs the ability to summon emergency resources at the touch of a button… a panic button, just like high ranking city officials have in their offices. When our bus drivers or paramedics are dealing with a violent and agitated person, whose brain has been chemically altered by repeated drug use, the delay created by our currently out of date system is a tragedy waiting to happen. It has happened before and it cost a man’s life. Policy does not need to be changed; the safety system needs to need changed. A neglected safety system that leads to a city-wide lack of confidence by our responding people results in diminished service for the taxpayer. This is not fudging statistics, it is common sense. A panic button instantly creates a safer environment, can seamlessly be integrated to the present police infrastructure and would increase everyone’s safety.
Some ideas on making Winnipeg safer are easily done at the municipal level. Other ideas, that require partnering with provincial and federal governments, are concepts that some people would rather we not discuss. I refuse to “stay in my lane”. When we are discussing safety every idea needs to be considered.
For example, motor vehicles need to be registered, which means vehicles need license plates, not a little piece of paper taped to the upper corner of a windshield. I know that under the Highway Traffic Act, current law allows drivers to tape a temporary registration to the windshield, but when an individual with a lever action rifle and head full of bad ideas is driving around the streets of Ottawa for the better part of the morning without plates on his car, using a Canadian Tire flyer taped to his window as a fake registration, in order to covertly avoid police detection for the sole purpose of attacking the Prime Minister on the steps of Parliament, we have a problem. I refuse to believe we can’t close loopholes that criminals are exploiting. It is too late to prevent the death of Cpl. Cirillo, but I believe that a bill named in his honour, one that requires all jurisdictions to require mandatory license plates displayed on all vehicles without exception, might help stop the next attack. There is no valid reason in my mind not to do this.
Smart on Crime – Changes to the Bail Reform Act.
This is another serious issue that requires the support of the City and the Province. Offenders currently bound by police and/or court ordered conditions account for the majority of violent criminal offences happening today. If a meth addicted offender recently released with conditions, has a high likelihood of reoffending, there should be reverse onus on that offender (and/or his legal counsel) to show the public that he/she is not a threat to the public before being released. The so called revolving door of justice needs to be closed.
The conditions levied on the offender, whether by police or the court, need to be reasonable and in line with current technologies. You can’t release an addicted offender with conditions not to use drugs – you are setting them up to fail.
Technology today makes it possible to converse with people via cellphone cameras, track locations via embedded information in photographs and more. An offender released to the public with access to a cellphone and a Wi-Fi signal has the ability to abide by conditions and check in with law enforcement. A single officer can conduct multiple checks using technology from a secured facility, thereby allowing two officer units to be used for emergency calls. There is a reverse effect in that offenders, who are intent in leaving the criminal life behind, are spared the embarrassment of having police arrive at their doorstep at any given time of day or night. People assume that offenders resent the officers who arrest them or check on them, but more often than not they resent the system that continually reminds them of the mistakes they’ve made. In my experience, most offenders appreciate dealing with someone who offers dignity and respect. I have dealt with several people, who have said, that they have reached a positive place after years of struggle, because they were provided respect and dignity worthy of someone who mattered. We need to ensure that we are not continually putting insurmountable obstacles before people already facing an uphill struggle. Changing the Bail Reform Act is a place to start.
Smart on Crime – Billing for Police Service
The Winnipeg Police Service is a non-profit organization; that should go without saying. However, scofflaws and system abusers should be paying costs of the labour and resources currently being covered by the taxpayer. Some drug pusher can laugh, while his free, tax payer funded, court appointed lawyer argues about unessential details in an effort to create reasonable doubt before an overworked, unimpressed judge who may or may not pander to his increasingly nonsensical whims. There should be a cost implementation that is filtered down to the convicted that covers some of the cost of police resources. The common man cares not if the offender does 2 months or 45 days but they do care if their taxes are increased because the police budget is rising. Criminals committing crimes can cover the costs of their clean-up.
Smart on Crime – Changes to Impaired Driving Processing
Communities like Red Lake, Ontario, with a tenth of our population, are able to arrest and convict more drunk drivers than the city of Winnipeg. How? More efficient and updated ways of collecting evidence.
Allowing officers to use video evidence obtained during the arrest will change that. Updating the way evidence is collected will bring these investigations into the 21st century and make our streets safer. Disclosure of cellphone camera recordings is easily obtained if officers are issued equipment capable of making these recordings. There is a succinct inefficiency when we require one or two officers to collect all the required evidence, when we have a pool of officers deemed “not fit for the street” willing and able to help collect statements, annotations, logging, reviewing, reporting and dispersal of evidence. The arresting officer’s phone is easily available should its information be needed for court and if a conviction is made, then the cost of having the equipment out of service is billed to the offender. Taking a picture and testifying that you took the picture is much stronger evidence than hand written notes trying to describe the same picture.
Smart on Crime – smoothing out the hoops Police jump through
“You need a warrant.” The battle cry of every meth dealer about to be arrested for a crime they know they committed. Is a Judge or Magistrate available by FaceTime video? Can the call be sworn to in real time? Can it be recorded and made available for disclosure? Can the information to obtain the warrant be transcribed and provide to the offender at a later date? Can the process be shown or explained to the offender during the call or by his legal counsel? The answer to all these questions is yes. We are wasting time and resources by doing things the old way with old tools.
Smart on Crime – Speeding the Ticket Process
Millions of dollars, used to calculate future budgets, was forecasted and those shortages have resulted in massive shortfalls. A better process is needed; the solution needs to come from people in every part of the justice system. From those that issue the offence notices to those that navigate its way through the system, there needs to be a more efficient way for people to refute their guilt. People want the ability to tell their story right away, in 140 characters or less and they shouldn’t have to wait eight months to do so. A Traffic offence takes seconds to commit, a traffic ticket takes minutes to issue and traffic court should follow the same pattern not months later.
Smart on Crime – City By-laws to make us safer
Within every neighbourhood of the city, there is a fire hall, easily accessed by someone riding a bicycle. Want to register your bike? Ride over to the fire hall, get your pictures taken and have your serial number recorded. Get a sticker that goes on your bike. Now, if your bike goes missing there is a database and proof of ownership and the whole registration process took only a few minutes. Why are we making it easier for meth addicts to steal our bicycles? We need to use our resources better.
Every urban city deals with homeless persons, and we are no different. Many of these people resort to panhandling as a way of making money to help feed their addictions. Winnipeg being one of, if not the most giving city in Canada, has good hearted folks who are willing to help by offering a dollar here or there.
Yet there is an inherent danger when we mix pedestrians and traffic – plus, the middle of the street is not where panhandling should occur. People who are desperate enough to resort to begging should be given the opportunity to do so with dignity. Everyone should be given the option of registering with the city to receive a panhandling license, which comes complete with education on the dangers and compliance with city bylaws, if they feel this is their only option to find meaningful work. There are a dozen social programs that can team with the city to monitor and aid these people to ensure they are receiving assistance, training, counselling and it reduces the aggressive interactions that can occur between individuals. Those that want to give will have the peace of mind knowing that the person they are giving to may be struggling but is making an effort to change their station in life
Smart on Crime – Moderated Temperature for Liveability
What do ice cream sales and our crime rate have in common? Both increase substantially in the summer. Those living without air-conditioning know the struggle of losing a good night’s sleep because of the heat or having to leave windows and doors open, making the residence vulnerable to intruders. If we allow landlords and building managers to use an amortized reduction in property taxes in order to meet the needs of the people suffering from the heat the resulting drop in crime will more than cover the cost lost through the collected fees.
Smart on Crime – using Instagram and Twitter
Police rarely enforce By-laws. There is just no time. We can, we’re able, but we have to be in too many other places, at too many other times, doing too many other tasks. How do we fix it? Technology (a running theme, I know). You have a cellphone, you have a camera? Point, click, and upload to the Winnipeg By- Law Officers online reporting account. Parking Tickets, un-registered bicycles, noise complaints, unkempt yards and houses, derelict properties and dangerous conditions, so on and so forth. All solved at the touch of a button.
REPEATING THE CALL TO ACTION
I have discussed some of the inefficiencies that contribute to the many problems facing Winnipeg today. As you can see, the Meth Crisis and resulting crime has an impact far beyond what we may realize.
My campaign promise is to MAKE WINNIPEG THE SAFEST CITY IN CANADA.
It will not be easy to fulfill, and it will require working with the public, businesses, City Council and Administration, and the Province of Manitoba.
It is a promise I will keep.
This is the crime platform- infrastructure, economic development, and mayor access to be added soon. Thank you for your input.