'I hate to see it disappear': Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry residents say vacancies, crime among top concerns

Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry will elect a new councillor for the first time in 20 years on Oct. 24 — and that person will have to deal with a number of issues in the Winnipeg ward, residents say.

Ward's new councillor will have to contend with several issues after Oct. 24 election, residents say

The Osborne Village Inn closed in 2015. Some residents of the Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry ward say the vacancy rate in the area is a concern. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Trendy Osborne Village has been on the minds of many residents in the Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry ward ahead of Winnipeg's Oct. 24 civic election. They say they've watched as the once vibrant and buzzing shopping strip has fallen into disrepair and crime has started to rise.

"The main thing is a kind of scuzzy nature — let's call it that — a scuzzy nature of the shopping strip," said 73-year-old Allen Mills, a resident of the ward for 10 years.

"I think the reason it looks so run down is, of course, the businesses are not occupying some of the sites. They are empty — empty shop fronts."

A simple drive down Osborne Street seems to prove Mills's point. Scattered through the strip's many storefronts are for sale signs plastered to windows covered with brown paper.

Allen Mills has lived in the Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry ward for 10 years. He says vacancy rates and the 'scuzzy nature' of the Osborne Village strip are a concern ahead of this year's civic election. (Danton Unger/CBC)

It's one of the issues the Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry's new city councillor will have to deal with after the Oct. 24 election. For the first time in 20 years, the ward will elect a new councillor — Jenny Gerbasi, currently the longest-serving member of city council, is not running again.

Seven candidates are vying to replace her: Peter Koroma ,Stephanie Meilleur, Jeff Palmer, Sherri Rollins, Bryanna Spina, Michael Thompson and Harry Wolbert.

'We have special problems' 

But vacancies aren't the only challenge facing the community. 

Winnipeg's crime data website, CrimeStat, indicates an uptick in the amount of crime reported in the Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry ward in the year to date.

As of Sept. 28, there were 833 incidents in the ward reported to police — a 19 per cent increase from the same period in 2017, when 700 incidents were reported.

Seven candidates are running for the Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry council seat in Winnipeg's 2018 civic election. (CBC)

In both periods, the most reports were in the commercial break-in category — a 39 per cent increase this year, with 215 incidents reported in the 2018 year to date, and 155 in the January-September period of 2017.

CrimeStat results do not reflect the number of actual crimes committed, but rather the number of reported crimes.

"In some ways, [crime] is all over," Mills said. "I suppose it's part of living in this complex society. I don't know what people can do about it."

With more businesses leaving the area and crime statistics showing a recent increase, some residents simply accept the fact that the village is no longer the bustling city hub that it once was.

Robert Sakowski, a resident of the ward for nearly 40 years, says its high density creates 'special problems' in Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry. (Danton Unger/CBC)

"I think we have special problems — we have a high density and it's one of the areas that has its own kind of crime," said 75-year-old Robert Sakowski, a resident of the ward for nearly 40 years.

"I don't go out very late. I'm not afraid to walk around, although it's an area that you really have to watch yourself."

Sakowski added that in the past few years, he's taken precautions such as installing a home alarm system and getting a dog in order to keep himself and his property safe.

"I really love the area and I hate to see it disappear," Sakowski said.

One of his neighbours, 80-year-old Pat Hill, said she isn't as concerned about the crime in the area.

"I haven't personally noticed anything, but I guess I've read that there's more [crime]," said Hill, a resident of the ward for the past 24 years.

"I think I feel safe, but I think I have to be aware of what's around me all the time."

Hill added that overall, she is happy in her ward and in her neighbourhood.

Winnipeggers will vote for mayor and councillors in 15 city wards on Oct. 24, 2018. (CBC)

More CBC Manitoba election ward profiles:

Journalism students from Red River College's creative communications program have prepared profiles of each city of Winnipeg ward ahead of the 2018 civic election for CBC Manitoba. Read all of our election 2018 coverage here


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