The silence is deafening

Let’s say for the sake of argument I’m a city councillor in Point Douglas, Old Kildonan or the Mynarski ward in Winnipeg.

Let’s also say that once a month or so, I’m responsible for sitting on a committee at city hall where people come forward to present problems, update me on situations and make presentations to me — giving me the chance to ask for feedback and to probe deeper into what’s actually going on in my ward.

Sometimes, even police officials turn up to talk about crime and what the Winnipeg Police Service is doing about it.

Given the high-profile nature of crime in the area in recent weeks, what with three unsolved slayings and four unsolved “random” sexual assaults, a handful of home invasions and other assorted mayhem— in the Mynarski ward especially — I’d likely have some questions about police enforcement, right?

Well, no — at least not in Winnipeg, it seems.

Today, the man in charge of policing the crime-riddled North End — Insp. Brian Cyncora — appeared before the Lord Selkirk community committee to present on — and answer questions about — the area’s crime issues.

I’m sure he came in wondering if his head would be pounding by the time he was done.

He need not have worried.

Not one of the three councillors on the committee had a substantive question for the veteran, well-educated officer, despite the recent mayhem — and despite the fact that if anyone knows anything about crime in the North End, he’d be the guy who likely knows and should be able to offer an answer.

Cyncora realistically talked about the “significant challenges” police in the area face (and stated have faced over the last two years), along with the local citizenry’s historical lack of trust of the WPS that he’s been trying to win back.

“I’m out there in the front,” he said. “Historically, we’ve lost a lot of trust in the community,” he said.

He talked about the efforts the department has been making to bolster “crime prevention through social development.”

Cyncora talked about the merits and expansion of a hockey program for inner-city youth that the WPS has undertaken. He also spoke of reaching out to other area social leaders in hopes of expanding crime-prevention plans. No specifics.

He talked about enforcement: about the fact that there are three unsolved homicides (he used the word murders) — two that sparked a massive police response — and said that a special detail, dubbed Project Guardian, has been set up to gather leads and tips and follow up on them in relation to the killings.

Cyncora didn’t elaborate on the nature of the project or offer much insight into how successful it’s been so far.

But then, nobody in a position to ask, asked.

The investigation has uncovered many tips, he said, but there’s been nothing conclusive.

“We need them, we need the community to help us,” he said.

Not one of the councillors asked Cyncora to elaborate on a single word he said.

Not one of the three asked about the recent sexual assaults or Tuesday’s home invasion. Not one asked if there was something they could do to further police efforts, or how the force is measuring its progress in the area.

What were the recently (re) elected area councillors’ major concerns, you may ask?

Cyncora was asked only about the incoming police cadets, and whether they’d be used in his district.

Officially, they’re just fresh into field training and are being supervised by a senior officer.

However, The WPS brass hasn’t yet shared the deployment plans for the new, blue-shirted cadets in terms of how they’ll fit into North End, Cyncora said.

Despite the fact there’s no plan in place yet to say how they’ll be used in his area, rookie Coun. Ross Eadie pondered aloud about the possibility the cadets may be too “aggressive” in the conduct of their duties in the most hard-core crime area of town.

He wondered if the cadets would have enough life experience to be able to handle what they’d see and do working in the area.

But, Cyncora said, they won’t be viewed as police officers, and will “not be confrontational or aggressive.”

He struck me as a police official who was kind of hoping someone would ask him a question that mattered.

Too bad not one of the area councillors could be bothered to do so.

Full audio of Cyncora’s statements to the committee below.

[AUDIO http://ia600302.us.archive.org/26/items/LordSelkirkCommunityCommittee231110/Cyncora.mp3%5D

[ADDENDUM] John Dobbin writes:

“At the very least, councillors should have been asking if the forensic evidence led them to conclude there was three shooters or just one. Or is that giving away too much?”

Good question, John, how about also:

“What is the status of the mobile command unit? Is it still present in the area?”

“You talk about ‘significant challenges’ — what exactly does that mean?”

“Why do you single out the last two years as being particularly challenging for police in the North End?”

“What are some things we, as councillors, could be doing that may make a difference to the WPS’ efforts?”

[ADDENDUM 2] More questions left unasked are posed in the most recent post on the A Day in The Hood blog:

I went for a walk today, on my own. This was the first time I have ventured more than a block from my home on foot alone since the shootings in October. The shootings are no longer a topic of news, and are drifting from peoples memories.
I have tried to get back to normal, but things kept happening.
A few days after the murders, there was the sound of a shot gun coming from behind my house, somewhere in the back lane, or very close. Then I watched a person steal a car, right in front of my window. And there were the other actions occurring within view of my house. Then last week I had an unfortunate encounter with a person on a bicycle. I have been looking at bicycles along the side streets of the North End in a different light since the murders. I remember the Police said the individual or individuals doing the shootings were seen traveling by bicycle.

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