Winnipeg police say Osborne Village sexual assault wasn't random, no threat to public safety
'There isn't a person who was randomly doing attacks in the Village,' police say, but investigation continuing
People in Winnipeg's Osborne Village area have been on edge after a sexual assault was reported in the neighbourhood last weekend, but police now say there's no risk to public safety.
"The investigation has taken a turn, and what we know now is that we aren't looking for a suspect," Winnipeg police Const. Rob Carver said Friday.
"We've identified the person we need to speak to and really, the message is that there isn't a person who was randomly doing attacks in the Village."
Last weekend, police released information about a sexual assault that they reported happened Friday around 10:30 p.m. near River Avenue and Osborne Street — a busy intersection in the densely populated neighbourhood.
The 18-year-old victim told police she was walking in the area when a man pulled her to an alleyway between Pulford and Bole streets, north of Stradbrook Avenue, and sexually assaulted her.
Police say while an incident did occur, the investigation has revealed the details are not exactly what was initially reported.
"I think [the incident] presented a very serious concern for people who are either living in the area, working in the area, or recreating in the area, that somebody could be grabbed in a high-traffic area. That's not what happened," he said.
"I want to make this very clear — we are investigating a situation that happened, but it wasn't that," said Carver.
Attempted robbery heightened worries
A second incident on Wednesday caused more concern for people who visit the area.
Police said an attempted purse snatching took place near the Osborne Street and Pembina Highway intersection — better known as Confusion Corner — around 7 p.m. But it is not connected to the assault, and doesn't mean there is a spike in criminal activity in the area, Carver said.
"We've looked back over the last number of months. Things have remained fairly constant in the Village," he said.
"Definitely no crime spike and definitely no reason to be alarmed by Osborne Village."
The victim in the attempted robbery incident did not sustain any serious injuries.
Police say no arrests have yet been made in either incident, and both are still under investigation.
Liz Pham lives in Osborne Village and said hearing about the incidents was alarming.
"I was definitely nervous and it kind of prevented me from wanting to go outside for a walk," she said, who goes for walks with her toddler.
Police say they released information about the sexual assault, using the information they had at the time, out of an abundance of caution for the public. They take all reports of sexual assault seriously, Carver said.
Pham said she's happy police are keeping the public informed.
"I think providing us updates as the story evolves… is really, really important. No one wants to live in fear, especially in your own neighbourhood."
She still plans to be vigilant while out walking, and would like to see more of a foot patrol presence in the area.
Police say it's always important for people to be aware of their surroundings, travel in groups if possible and stick to well-lit areas.