Broken Windows in Winnipeg

Publication, Policing, Frontier Centre

Today’s article on the “broken windows” approach (Winnipeg Free Press, November 22, 2004) was much needed. A couple of weeks ago, over three days, I read of three criminals being apprehended and was quite shocked to read that each individual was being charged with double figure “previous incidents”. The total came to around fifty and got me wondering what the yearly total would be and if we would ever actually get access to it. Last week, there was an excellent article by Fred Cleverley, in the Free Press, on car vandalism and it really hit home, as the cars in our apartment complex have been vandalized five times this year. This included an incident like the one mentioned by Mr.Cleverley where the vandals just continued, in spite of apartment owners shouting at them from their windows(3am).Having read the “broken windows book a couple of years ago I was moved to write to our Mayor suggesting he look at the problem. Unfortunately, my letter was passed on to the police and though I received a well thought out reply, explaining how “money ” was the problem, having read the book I did not want the police to be involved in any statistical evaluation! To me the important points in the book were:

1. Patrol cars provide “after the fact” crime detection. Too late on most occasions.

2. The problem is always much worse than it seems, due to under reporting, the fact that THE POLICE record the statistics and obviously like “good” figures, and the categories used to collect the statistics(e.g. Is “apartment vandalism”(one incident) really five cars damaged and thus “five incidents”. What is a “petty crime”? Not always petty to the owners.

3. A non-police initiated survey needs to be carried out to find the REAL extent of the problem.

4. Police oppose “community” crime fighting as it might upset their traditional roles.

5. Most importantly-psychological costs in the community. It is not always a matter of money but this is how it is usually reported.

Regarding #5 , our damaged vehicles included two recently purchased new cars, bad damage to the car of a disabled female owner, the theft of a car belonging to a lady who visited “the sick” (had to cancel the rest of her calls for the day and ended up buying a new car), really bad damage to a “classic” old car and lots of UNREPORTED vandalism (broken windows, aerials pulled off).People move away from the block, others hear of the problems and do not want to move in and, in my own case, when we purchase our next new car we shall seriously consider moving, at some cost. In any group of four or five people, these days, someone has experienced vandalism in one form or another. True statistics are badly needed. Who carries out the survey, though? I enjoy your articles because they are well researched, they offer solutions and they look to the future. – Email from Winnipeg