Winnipeg’s new police chief Devon Clunis recently paid a visit to the River Heights community.
Due to changes in administration Clunis will be the first police chief who doesn’t report to the Chief Administrative Officer; instead, he will report directly to the newly-formed Winnipeg Police Board.
On Tuesday, April 2 he reported to the citizens of River Heights when local Coun. John Orlikow arranged a community forum at the Sir John Franklin Community Centre.
Clunis was accompanied by 17 of his officers and took the opportunity to share his vision for creating a culture of safety in partnership with the community.
What are the policing issues in River Heights? Well, for a start, there isn’t a police station close by.
As part of District 6 our nearest station is on Pembina Highway just south of McGillivray Boulevard. That may soon change as Clunis revealed that District 6 will be merging with St. James, and a new, larger police station will be built on Grant Avenue and shared by the two districts.
Fortunately, though, River Heights is not a hot bed of crime. The police website reported only 12 crimes in River Heights over the past month. There were three vehicle thefts, one robbery and eight break and enters, five of which were at residential properties.
Clunis stressed the value of working together as a community. He said, get to know your neighbours and what is going on in the neighbourhood. Report all issues to the police, no matter how trivial. Maybe they won’t respond immediately but the issues will be logged and possibly resolved in the future.
Poverty and poor social conditions were identified as one of the key characteristics behind many crimes in our city, and it was pointed out that these are not always inner city issues.
Clive Wightman, director of Community Services for the City of Winnipeg, explained how some children turn up for school both hungry and inadequately dressed. His department is working to resolve these issues not only by providing the necessities for the children but also by offering social and sports programing aimed at youth in need, and courses on parenting skills for caregivers.
One disgruntled audience member complained about the high cost of overtime for police officers attending traffic court and suggested this money would be better deployed addressing issues such as violent crimes.
Another lady bemoaned the lack of after school activities for youth at risk and asked what she could do.
Bike to the Future complained about a lack of common courtesy shown to cyclists in general. Chief Clunis stated that he too was a cyclist and would do all he could to support this issue.
Jamaican-born Clunis grew up in a house with no electricity or running water then came to Winnipeg when he was 12-years-old. He is a 25-year veteran of the Winnipeg Police Service and for the past 12 years he has also acted as the police chaplain.
A man of deep conviction, many in the community are hoping he’s also a man of action who can implement some of these strategies and help reduce crime city-wide.