Bear Clan, police call for more support to prevent violent crime in Winnipeg
'You always feel like you failed,' community patrol leader says after 3 homicides in 1 night
Sean Davis stands in front of a house on a residential street in Tyndall Park, a Winnipeg police cruiser out front and yellow tape blocking the entrance.
Inside, a 14-year-old was stabbed to death this weekend.
"I just wish it never happened," said Davis, whose daughter lives across the street with her kids. "Some parents — I couldn't imagine how they feel."
The girl's death and a double homicide just a few hours later, closer to downtown Winnipeg, made for a deadly weekend in the city
The Bear Clan Patrol, an Indigenous-led neighbourhood patrol group, has been working hard to prevent exactly this in Winnipeg's inner-city communities.
"These are not strangers to us. One of our volunteers, her daughter was one of the ones that was stabbed. She survived, thankfully," executive director James Favel said.
"These are people that we know, we're familiar with, and care about. So it's very tragic to see these kinds of things come about in our community."
Favel said they have made ground in some of the city's most crime-ridden areas, and the events that transpired do not represent the community as a whole.
"We work very hard to help build up our community and help support especially our youth. We want to provide a different path for them, and you always feel like you failed when these kinds of things happen," he said.
"So for all the the work that we do, there's still so much left to be done."
Favel said the causes of crime need to be tackled, including poverty and mental health and addiction issues.
"We need more resources available," he said. "These things happen because people are not feeling like they're connected. They're not feeling like they have any real options."
Police union calls for more officers
The Winnipeg Police Association said the weekend's homicides are an example of why more policing resources are "urgently needed to keep people safe."
"Winnipeg has a serious and out-of-control crime problem, and it will only get worse unless steps are taken to reverse it," union president Maurice Sabourin said in a statement.
"Our violent crime problem will not be addressed with tweets. It will be addressed with additional resources for the [Winnipeg Police Service] to ensure members are on the streets," Sabourin wrote.
But the city's police chief said it's not an issue that can be tackled by police alone.
"This is not just a police response or a police problem. We certainly have a role to play in this, and we're doing our best to respond to these things, but other things have to occur as well," Chief Danny Smyth said.
"When I talk about drugs, it's a health crisis. We need the ability to help people with addictions. When it comes to gangs, we need to be able to rely on some of the services that help gang members exit the lifestyle. It can't just all fall on the police to keep order and arrest people. It's bigger than that," Smyth said.
At least a third of the recent homicides have been either drug or gang related, he said.
"It's having an impact," he said.
"Certainly the circumstances were as such that it really was an unusual weekend, but we have been talking about the impact on meth and some of the gang violence for quite some time now," he said.
"This was just an illustration of what happens when it all comes together."
Mayor Brian Bowman spoke with Smyth on Monday to express his appreciation for the work of the police service, a City of Winnipeg spokesperson said in a statement to CBC News.
City council "continues to provide record funding" to the service and is taking steps to implement recommendations from the Illicit Drug Taskforce Report from earlier this year, the Downtown Safety Strategy from 2018 and the new Community Safety and Crime Prevention Program, the statement said.