Nightclub shooting prompts call for greater safety downtown
The shooting death of Rustom Paclipan outside a Winnipeg nightclub has renewed calls for an increased police presence downtown at night.
The 23-year-old college student died after being shot in front of Opera Ultralounge on Bannatyne Avenue and Main Street early Sunday morning.
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According to police, a group of men were involved in a confrontation outside the club when one person pulled out a gun and shot at the crowd.
Police have said the shooting was linked to street gangs, but added that Paclipan was not known to police.
Stefano Grande, executive director of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, said security is a big issue and they're battling people's impressions of the downtown area.
He called the shooting outside Opera an isolated incident, but said it will only fuel the perception that downtown is unsafe.
Increased police foot patrols have helped improve the perception of safety during the day. Now Grande wants the same to be done for the night.
"Foot patrols are always a tool. It helps alleviate the perceptions and in some cases also alleviates some of the crime that is happening or might be happening," he told CBC News.
'I'm very confident in downtown,' says mayor
On Wednesday, Mayor Sam Katz insisted that people have no reason to worry about their safety downtown.
"I believe that this is what you would call an isolated scenario; a very unfortunate scenario, obviously."
In addition to police patrols in the area, some downtown bars and clubs use surveillance cameras and metal detectors.
At Whiskey Dix, a club also located on Main Street, manager Kristi Stoesz says staff require patrons to undergo searches before they enter.
"A pat-down will … check the pockets, everything like that, where the wands will really catch all the metal or anything else coming in," she said.
Whiskey Dix's predecessor, Empire Cabaret, shut down in November 2007 following the death of a 24-year-old man who was stabbed inside the club, apparently by another patron.
Are metal detectors effective?
Some Winnipeggers told CBC News they think thorough metal detector scans should be mandatory at bars.
"I mean, I'm already taking the time to take my purse out and open it and show everything," one woman said Wednesday.
Opera Ultralounge does not use metal detectors, but owner Jack Moslehi says the club uses 36 surveillance cameras and an ID scanner that checks a patron's driver's licence for red flags such as a criminal history.
If the scanner identifies a problem with a patron, that person would be banned from Opera and all other bars using the same system, he said.
"If I had a child, would I have a problem with them going to a club downtown? No, not at all," Moslehi said.
Moslehi said the gun used in Sunday's incident was never inside his bar, and he noted that metal detecting wands often miss violent objects.
"A wand doesn't stand a chance against a ceramic knife," he said.
It's a point that Premier Greg Selinger agreed with in December 2007, when the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission issued a report on ways to enhance safety in licensed premises.
"Metal detectors may give a false sense of security. There are many ways for people to engage in violent activities that doesn't require metal," said Selinger, who was then finance minister.
The provincial government beefed up legislation around nightclub security last month, making it illegal to allow disorderly people inside or outside a property.
Even with the new measures, the Exchange District BIZ says the area is safe.
"I would say without hesitation … the area's still extremely safe," said Brian Timmerman, the Exchange District BIZ's executive director.
The Downtown BIZ's Grande said his group has been lobbying for years to have more police downtown, particularly at night.
"We've been on record for several years talking about the need for more foot patrols. We've seen government respond to that during the day and afternoons and we like to see progress continue in the evenings and early mornings," he said.
City of Winnipeg statistics from last spring indicated that violent crime in parts of the city's downtown was down by as much as 14 per cent.