It's been a tough few days for the West End with a couple of shootings last week on Toronto and Victor Streets.
I live near Arlington and St. Matthews, just a couple of blocks from where events went down. I have been through the area dozens, if not hundreds of times. I know there are rough pockets but that level of crime took me by surprise.
The police chief says that he was 'shocked' at what happened. After reading this version of events of his press conference where he says senior brass don't look at CrimeStat data and puts the responsibility of street crime squarely on Ottawa (?!) I would imagine that he is shocked every time he picks up his morning paper and reads about crime in the city.
Of course, people who don't know the West End except for what they read in the pages of the Winnipeg Sun are painting the area as some Detroit-style wasteland and that's the additional tragedy to the story.
There is an open letter to the media published here criticizing some of the recent media coverage as sensationalized. It urges local media "...to get to know the inner city, and people here better...." in order to be able to provide "...more nuanced, useful coverage of what is going on, and help us make change for the better."
The writers also take the media to task about privacy issues such as broadcasting children's faces and the names and exact addresses of those involved. One example I noticed is that of the Victor Street house, instead of "the 400 block of Victor" it lists the exact address which was included in the Canwest wire story and picked up nationally.
There have been some great things happening in the West End lately. A newly expanded West End Cultural Centre has opened, the U of W is in the process of transforming a block of what was mostly empty lots to add hundreds of new eyes to the neighbourhood. We've had some funky new businesses open up like Black Sheep Diner and Hungover Empire boutique. There are new community gardens and there's a bike cage at Orioles CC.
But still, there gang members.
The increased police presence has had some impact as 'several people' with outstanding warrants have been picked up but policing alone is not the answer. The community needs to get aboard.
Tomorrow at 6 pm there is a community parade departing from Maryland Street and winding through the West End.
Come out and see this great part of the city and help the West End fight back !