Mynarski council candidates plan to get creative to correct crime, vacant buildings
5 candidates suggest using or changing existing bylaws, investing in crime prevention
All city councillor candidates in Mynarski say crime needs to be addressed in the ward, and the incoming challengers say the longtime incumbent hasn't done enough.
"A city councillor, especially an inner city one, should be screaming at the top of their lungs about this on a weekly basis," said candidate Aaron McDowell.
"I have not seen that in 12 years, but now it is critical."
Non-violent crime calls to police in the area are back at 2019 levels — the highest since 2016, according to the Winnipeg Police Service's public crime map.
Violent crime calls have also gone up slightly in 2022, to the highest number since 2016, the map says.
One of the main issues is derelict buildings that have squatters or go up in flames, McDowell said. If elected, McDowell wants to use an existing bylaw to take property from landlords who have abandoned buildings.
McDowell said the city hasn't done it out of "pure laziness."
Once the city takes the property, the money it gets from any revenue stays in the ward through the land dedication reserve fund, McDowell said.
"Then you're spending money on productive things instead of … wasting police and fire resources," he said.
"You can fix a park for little kids. You could plant trees.… That's how we should be spending our resources — by taking back the community instead of allowing it to be victimized."
A City of Winnipeg spokesperson said the bylaw, called Taking Title Without Compensation, hasn't been used since 2016.
'Costly and time-consuming'
In an email, the spokesperson said the city gives property owners the chance to fix any bylaw violations. The city can start the process of taking title if the owner is convicted of an offence under the provincial vacant buildings bylaw.
"Once the process is initiated, the city is required to carry out specific legal steps that still allow the property owner the opportunity to comply," the spokesperson wrote.
Candidate Steve Snyder calls that bylaw "costly and time-consuming," so he's taking a different approach.
Commercial property owners in Winnipeg have to pay a permit to board up a building. The permit fee increases each year. Residential owners also have to pay a fee, but the cost is the same every year.
Snyder wants the residential permit fee to increase each year, which he believes will quickly motivate property owners to do something with their land.
"They can hold the property and hope for land value increases, so that they could build something better, build something bigger, or sell it for a higher price down the line — whereas we want something done with it now," Snyder said.
"If the permit prices increase gradually over time through the years, then it will motivate them to get rid of it earlier."
Crime prevention ideas
Some candidates are looking at prevention tactics.
"The way we address safety is by investing in crime intervention, so that we can help those that are struggling with poverty and help those that are homeless get off the street and provide more stability in their lives," said candidate Natalie Smith.
Smith moved to the ward in 2018. If elected, she'd communicate with other councillors in wards similar to Mynarski across Canada — more mature, central neighbourhoods — about crime prevention.
"Even though we represent different people and different parts of the country, we can still work together," she said.
The current councillor hasn't been vocal enough about helping people who are struggling, Smith said.
"It's really important that a ward that contains a high level of poverty and a high level of Indigenous folks can't be overlooked anymore, because this is a social justice issue and this is a reconciliation issue."
Ed Radchenka says he'd invest in more police foot patrols to try to prevent crime in Mynarski. He also wants a housing first strategy.
"We have to get people to live in houses," he said. "They're living in back lanes. They're having fires."
Eadie says he's worked hard for 12 years to keep people safe and address crime in Mynarski.
"I didn't set the fires. I didn't create the vacant derelict buildings, nor did I create all that garbage dumped out there," he said.
"Human beings living in the area are causing these problems."
Eadie said he's collaborated over the years with other councillors to address the fires, the build-up of garbage and safety in general.
Eadie sent CBC News an email chain from 2020, where he asks city administration for more help with garbage collection.
"We push really hard, because this is a serious issue," he said.
"It's not like I don't care, but the reality is it's individuals out there who are causing the problem, not me. You tell me how any politician's going to change human behaviour."
To try to prevent crime, Eadie wants more city investment in recreation programs and community centres.
"Provide them good recreation service so that they're involved with doing good things rather than getting involved out on the street, attracted by the gangs," he said.
'Problem property' plan
An email from CAO Michael Jack to city councillors in September said the city's administration is trying something new to address problem properties.
"Problem properties are a symptom of more significant social issues" that must be addressed with solutions like affordable housing, reconciliation and safe spaces, the email says.
The city is hiring a consultant to build a business case for a specific program to address vacant buildings.
The administration is also renewing the problem property committee, which includes city staff, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service and the Winnipeg Police Service.
The city also started Project Salas, named after Salus, the Roman god of safety, the email says.
The project started in February, and is dedicated to dealing with problem properties across Winnipeg. From September to December, city staff are inspecting 50 problem properties, Jack's email says.
As of Tuesday, a city spokesperson said 33 properties have been inspected as part of this work. As a result, two have been torn down and three property owners have started renovating their properties. The spokesperson said the group expects to inspect all 50 problem properties by the end of the year.
The committee will present council with a report and solutions in April.