Windsor murder free for 2 years
Police credit gun control and drug unit for drop in homicide rate
It's been two years since someone last committed homicide in Windsor, Ont.
It's a stretch that impresses law enforcement officials on both sides of the border.
"It's a record that all of us right across the country envy, it's really quite extraordinary and I think it's something that the people of Windsor should be very, very proud of," Toronto police Chief Bill Blair said.
"I use it as an example," Minneapolis police Chief Timothy Dolan said earlier in September.
As of Sept. 1, Minneapolis had 22 homicides this year.
Gun control touted
"The cities are so similar in so many ways, the policing is so similar — except for one factor, and that's that they have reasonable gun control up in Canada," Dolan said.
Windsor police credit those gun control laws and their focus on local guns, gangs and drugs for keeping the homicide rate low.
"It's a long stretch, but to attribute it to any one thing, I think, would be really dangerous," Windsor police Chief Gary Smith said. "There's a lot of things that stop the homicide rate, but the biggest factor is how we police it, because if we can keep the guns off the streets then that also reduces the risks."
In 2006, Windsor created a guns, gangs and drugs unit, specifically designed to handle the cross-border drug trade.
As of Sept. 1, Windsor police had seized 38 guns this year. They seized 42 in the previous two years combined.
2009: 17 guns, $1.9 million in drugs.
2010: 25 guns, $4.3 million in drugs.
2011: 38 guns, $3.6 million in drugs.
The last killing in Windsor occurred Sept. 27, 2009. Mohamed Yousef, 23, was shot in the back after exiting a bar in the early morning hours.
By comparison, Halifax had 28 homicides in the last two years, up to Sept. 1, 2011. Regina has had 15 homicides during the same time period.
Detroit a stark contrast
Detroit, which is just 1,200 metres from Windsor and has a population four times larger, has recorded 260 homicides to date in 2011.
Smith also credits what he calls the local "highly trained EMS and emergency room" staff for saving lives that otherwise may be lost in the aftermath of a violent confrontation." Smith said that during the last two years there have been "close calls" involving the victims of stabbings and beatings who were kept alive in time to be treated and saved at hospital.
Smith knows the homicide-free streak won't last forever and acknowledges there is an element of luck involved.
And there are some academics who question the link between guns and violent crime rates, much less homicide.
"It's a popular approach among law enforcement to go after the guns. It's fairly easy to do but there's almost no evidence that it has an impact on the violent crime rate," said David Martin, program director at Wayne State University's Center for Urban Studies. "In Windsor where homicides are a fairly rare event it would be very difficult to prove that that would be an effective strategy."
Violent crime tied to economy
Studies suggest economic hardship is tied to a rise in violent crime.
"Not surprisingly we do know that communities with higher rates of unemployment tend to have higher rates of crime, especially violent crime," said Martin.
That makes Windsor's current streak even more impressive because Windsor had Canada's highest unemployment rate for 16 of the 24 months of this streak.
Coincidently, one of Windsor's longest homicide-free streaks came during the heart of the Great Depression when the city lived through 1933 through 1935 without a homicide.
That's still not the local record. Windsor went four years without a homicide, from 1918-1921.
Windsor's 25-year average for homicides is 5.24. Over 50 years it's 4.78.