Will “Sweep” Tactics Reverse Winnipeg’s Declining Police Effectiveness?

Blog, Municipal Government, Frontier Centre

The Winnipeg Police Service is in the midst of significant new program to crack down on crime, one that uses “sweeps” to target resources in high-crime neighbourhoods. The statistics presented here indicate that new strategies were overdue, as the performance of the city’s police force compared to other Canadian cities has deteriorated, as measured by the latest available national data.

As late as 2004, Winnipeg was maintaining its position for police strength, with the fourth highest level for Canadian cities, at 179 officers per 100,000 population, a slight increase from 2003. Only, Regina, Thunder Bay and Saskatoon, the cities closest to Winnipeg, had more police per capita.

Winnipeg’s crime rate was eighth among 13 major metropolitan areas, and the City’s police department tied for eighth in the percentage of crimes that were actually solved, 27%. Thunder Bay’s success rate, 46%, was much higher than Winnipeg’s. Even though Regina and Saskatoon, cities that are demographically almost identical to Winnipeg, had much higher crime rates, their police forces solved a lot more crimes, 34% and 37% respectively. Victoria, the city with the highest crime rate among those compared, solved 38% of criminal code violations.

Winnipeg also ranked eighth for per capita police costs, although it spent much more than the Canadian average of $188, as did most large metropolitan areas. That might indicate that urban police forces have similar problems with the effective allocation of resources. Whether Winnipeg’s crime clearance rates will improve in the 2004-2005 statistics due to the Police Service’s change in strategy remains to be seen.

In 2003, the Winnipeg Police Service’s performance indicators moved in the wrong direction. They resolved fewer criminal code infractions despite having more personnel and despite the fact that the cost of policing for each citizen rose by 14% in one year. Jurisdictions vary widely, but many others in Canada have higher success rates with resources that are equal to, or fewer than those allocated in Winnipeg.

SOURCE: Police Resources in Canada, 2004, Catalogue no. 85-225-XIE, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics

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