Mayoral candidate Gillingham unveils crime prevention plan for Winnipeg
Calls for renewed statistical analysis, joint units with RCMP to improve policing without spending more
Mayoral candidate Scott Gillingham unveiled a crime prevention plan he says was in the works well before a recent slew of high-profile violent incidents in Winnipeg.
The two-term city councillor for St. James and former Winnipeg Police Board chair gathered reporters to a meeting room in downtown Winnipeg's Alt Hotel on Thursday to present a five-page, 10-point policy document he described as an effort to make the Winnipeg Police Service more proactive.
Gillingham said if he's elected mayor this fall, he will encourage Winnipeg's police to resume the statistical analysis of crime trends on both a citywide and community basis. He'd also encourage them to revive joint efforts with the RCMP to combat organized crime and arrest habitual offenders who have warrants for their arrests, he said.
Gillingham said the police service has moved away from proactive crime prevention to the point where the service no longer has the capacity to do much beyond responding to crime.
"Many police officers are working hard, but from a strategic perspective, there's been a conscious shift in how these officers are being tasked and deployed to a more reactive approach that is struggling to cope with inbound calls," Gillingham said.
Gillingham also pledged to expand upon pilot projects that prevent police from responding to low-risk mental-health calls in favour of sending outreach workers with crisis expertise instead. He promised to hire crime prevention officers to serve on Winnipeg Transit buses and elsewhere once the provincial government changes legislation to allow the move.
He also pledged to change the criteria for police board appointments to ensure people who serve on the board have skills applicable for advising the police.
"You need the right skill set not only to provide financial oversight, but to provide good governance oversight as well," he said, noting the police service's $320-million annual operating budget is the largest among any city department.
He stopped short of stating the qualifications of existing board members are less than adequate for the role.
Gillingham promised Wednesday to appoint himself to the police board to ensure he could directly advise police. Under the provincial Police Services Act, only members of the board have the authority to provide any general direction to the Winnipeg Police Service.
Gillingham also pledged to reinstate a criminologist-in-residence program at the police service. That, he said, is the only aspect of his crime prevention plan that would incur any additional costs to the city.
"I do not support defunding the police, but I do believe that the Winnipeg Police Service needs to be fiscally accountable so that we can protect taxpayers and other city services," Gillingham said.
He said as mayor he would continue to hold increases to the police budget at or below the rate of inflation.
The eight-year councillor said advisers on his campaign team and in the community were working on this plan well before a series of high-profile incidents — including a pair of stabbings at The Forks three days apart — led Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth to state violent crime is not a new problem for the city.
Premier Heather Stefanson and Winnipeg Police Association president Moe Sabourin condemned Smyth's remarks, characterizing them as complacent.
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"Nothing today I'm saying is a reaction to the criminal or political events of the last few days," Gillingham said.
Gillingham is one of 12 people registered to run for mayor in Winnipeg. The other 11 candidates are Idris Adelakun, Rana Bokhari, Chris Clacio, Shaun Loney, Jenny Motkaluk, Glen Murray, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, Jessica Peebles, Rick Shone, Desmond Thomas and Don Woodstock.
The municipal election is on Oct. 26.