Friday, March 26, 2010
Winnipeg is the robbery capital, but numbers continue to decrease
Despite dramatic decreases in the last decade, Winnipeg remains the robbery capital of Canada, according to a report analyzing holdups.
Released Thursday, the Statistics Canada study, based on 2008 data, found Winnipeg’s per capita robbery rate of 233 incidents per 100,000 residents was the highest of major cities and more than twice the declining national average of 97.
Meanwhile, Manitoba was tops among provinces and territories.
In terms of actual numbers, Winnipeg’s 1,771 incidents ranked fifth.
Winnipeg has consistently had one of the worst robbery rates, despite a 24% decrease since 1999, so the unpleasant title didn’t surprise many.
Winnipeg Police Association president Mike Sutherland said the city figures may be higher than it appears because the study focuses on the entire Winnipeg census metropolitan area, meaning some bedroom communities and their low crime rates are lumped in, bringing the rate down a bit.
“I would imagine the city of Winnipeg alone is higher,” Sutherland said.
The overall decline is mostly due to a drop in robberies of banks and stores.
Sutherland attributes it to advancements in security.
“If one target becomes riskier they’ll just move on to another one,” he said.
Home invasions and public transit robberies were up, while gas station and convenience store holdups were among the highest in Montreal and Winnipeg, the report found.
What the study doesn’t measure is the emotional toll on victims.
Donna Chartrand, who’s visually impaired and in a wheelchair, said she’s afraid to leave her home on her own since she, her grandson and service dog were assaulted and robbed by a group of youths.
“I stay in my house more than anything. I used to be hot-wheeling all over the place but now I feel too scared,” Chartrand said.
At 62%, most holdups in Winnipeg in 2008 were of the strong-arm variety, where a person is robbed of property, said Staff Sgt. Rhyse Hanson of Winnipeg Police Service’s major crimes unit.
Money and jewelry were stolen the most.
Some do it because they think they’ll get away with it or won’t get a severe sentence if convicted, Hanson said.
He said police patrol areas where robberies occur frequently and urge people to be mindful of their safety and surroundings.
Half of all robberies occurred in public places such as a street, while 39% occurred in a bank or business and 10% in homes, the report found.
Sutherland and Mayor Sam Katz said they want changes to the Criminal Code and Youth Criminal Justice Act to create stiffer penalties.
Sutherland said Winnipeg needs more police officers.
CONVENIENCE store manager Shital Patel has a rule: If a robber demands cash, hand it over and hope you're spared.
It's good she's prepared because robbers in Winnipeg are more likely to target convenience stores and gas stations than robbers in most other Canadian cities, according to a Statistics Canada report released Thursday.
Patel's been lucky. Robbers haven't hit the Island Lakes Food Store during her daytime shift there. However, the report indicates robbers hit almost 160 Winnipeg stores last year.
"If you want money, take it, but leave the person alone," Patel said.
Winnipeg was second only to Montreal in the number of gas stations and convenience stores robbed in 2008. Winnipeg led the country in all police-reported robberies. Regina and Saskatoon were second and third.
On winter nights when darkness falls early and neighbouring businesses close, Patel said the convenience store shuts its doors to minimize danger.
Robbery is defined in the Criminal Code as theft of property by violence or the threat of violence. It therefore includes a range of crimes such as carjackings, home invasions, bank robberies and purse-snatchings.
But the Statistics Canada report is not all bad news. It says robberies in Manitoba have decreased by 20 per cent from 1999 to 2008. In the same period, robberies in Winnipeg decreased by 24 per cent.
Winnipeg has seen a large drop in car thefts. Investigators track carjackings and report them as robberies because they involve force.
Even with the decline since 1999, however, the release of the survey is a timely reminder to Winnipeggers the greatest danger of robbery is being strong-armed, said Major Crimes Unit Staff Sgt. Rhyse Hanson. That means a mugging, such as teenagers robbed of their iPod by bullies.
"Lots of time the public has the impression of a robbery of somebody coming into a bank or into a convenience store with a mask and gun," said Hanson. "Well, the vast, vast majority of robberies that take place in Winnipeg aren't that kind of robbery."
The Statistics Canada report notes that 50 per cent of robberies happen in outdoor places such as streets and parking lots, and about 39 per cent happen in places such as schools, banks and stores.
Hanson said most robberies are crimes of opportunity which involve no planning.
"(Robbers) see the victim in front of them, see that they have something that they want -- whether it's the case of beer or the iPod or the cellphone... so they take that instant opportunity," said Hanson. The same things that make convenience stores and gas bars attractive to customers may make them easy pickings for robbers, said Hanson.
"They're close and open 24 hours for the legitimate customer, they're also close and open 24 hours for the not legitimate person," said Hanson. And it's easy to "flip" cigarettes into cash, he said.
By the numbers:
Gas station and convenience store robberies per 100,000 population in 2008:
St. John's: 20.7
Police-reported robberies per 100,000 population in 2008
(Change from 1999 to 2008)
Winnipeg: 233 (-24%)
Regina: 222 (+31%)
Saskatoon: 212 (+1%)
Vancouver: 171 (-32%)
Edmonton: 171 (+11%)
Montreal: 151 (-32%)
-- Source: Statistics Canada
Are people really still that naive and stupid to believe that making tougher penalties will work? Sorry to tell you that it does NOT work. It will not prevent crime in any way as criminals do not think about the consequences of there actions, or about the penalties. It is impulsive in most cases. Studies have shown that tough penalties and getting tough on crime, do NOT deter or reduce crime, so I am not sure as to there reasoning for wanting tougher sentences.. It baffles me, how people can still believe this scam! Anyone with common sense and reason and knowledge of some stats, should be able to determine that this is not an effective strategy for reducing crime.
We need more early intervention programs and crime prevention programs in the community such as examining why robberies are committed and try to address the underlying issues, such as building more community centres, providing more recreational activities, better schooling, etc. People need to wake up and realize that this isn't working!
And even tougher penalties were introduced, the recidivism rates are very high when people are released from prison. Do we as a society want more dangerous individuals on the streets? Or do we want to help these people with rehab and crime preventive programs? I think the answer is clear and we need to do what will be best for society in the long run.
Besides, robberies are decreasing so I don't see the purpose or reasoning in wanting to implement stiffer penalties. Clearly, they are decreasing. Is there a need for stiffer sentences? No