It is with mild bemusement I read an article in the Winnipeg Sun about people in Riverbend area of Winnipeg being against the building of habitat for humanity housing on Benn Avenue. Not least of which is my parents almost bought a property there once. In fact I thought Benn Avenue was just outside the city limits but maybe that's been adjusted in the intervening decades. In fact back when my parents were interested in purchasing property on Benn Avenue, Riverbend was still a huge farmers field. Which is part of the reason I'm actually surprised there is still even an empty lot available.
I was out in Riverbend the other day and made a few observations. A brand new strip mall, the oddly named "L. Banag mall" which already is two thirds full of operating businesses, was spray painted with graffiti and half the businesses seemed to have their windows broken. I was genuinely surprised at this. This is something that is supposed to happen mainly in Downtown Winnipeg. Why is it happening there?
In the immediate vicinity of this strip mall lies a brand new skateboard park (which also already has graffiti). Now, I don't want to blame the skaters, because for one thing a lot of them are really young kids presumably from the area, and for another, I don't think the graffiti is being introduced by kids from the area. The skateboard park is located right next to the Red River Community Centre, a couple years old but still pretty new. I've noticed that questionable looking individuals seem to be congregating on the community centre parking lot in the evenings, for what purpose I can only speculate. They don't appear to be attending any community centre events in any case. So they are suspect #1 to me.
Down the road a bit is the still fairly new West Kildonan Collegiate building. Suspects #2 are kids who "go to school" there. Remember how a grade 10 student from West St Paul was killed in 2009? Not on school property, but a student of that school all the same, killed by a 16 year old. Gang members from the north end are almost certainly pushing their way into west kildonan and riverbend, probably to peddle drugs to students and push their contemptible and ignorant attitudes towards society farther and farther. There is graffiti around that area from students, though not spray painted. Just little "So and So was here" type graffiti.
Theres also people at the Tim Hortons who hang out all day there, but they don't seem the type to bother with graffiti and property destruction.
Anyways, back to the mall that showed clear signs of property damage. They already removed most of the spray paint from taggers (I wonder if anyone has ever taken photos of winnipeg tagger tags and documented what they mean?). Ice Time Sports had a broken window, but nobody seems to have actually gone inside and stolen anything.
There is a conservative party sign on one of the store fronts. Obviously the conservatives didn't win provincially, but Joy Smith used that property as a campaign headquarters in the last election as well. Now, the Conservatives do have an "omnibus crime bill" they're trying to enact, but how much do you think that crime bill protects the people of riverbend?
The crime bill has worse sentencing for marijuana based offences than for pedophiles. The crime bill pushes American style for profit prisons. The crime bill also includes draconian copyright protection measures at the behest of American special interests. But what does it do for the people of riverbend who voted in Joy Smith? I don't have much faith in it. What the crime bill does is it criminalizes the innocent, even those fools who voted the conservatives in. By comparison, gang members, punks and thieves will continue to advance to different areas of the city with their smug "what are you gonna do about it" looks on their faces as they group together considering their next act of violence or destruction.
The people in riverbend are justifiably worried about habitat for humanity. It's not that these individuals are necessarily going to be bad, but they're already seeing a bad element move in on their neighbourhood, and they want to get a handle on the situation. Putting faith in the Conservatives probably won't help. Partially legalizing Marijuana and selling it at specialty stores would be highly profitable for the country, and take away a huge market that funds the criminal element. However the Conservatives are too busy making new laws that criminalize innocent people who do something banal like share a song on the internet and protects antiquated business monopolies rather than to do something about crime and the reasons for crime. They care more about taking away your right to privacy on the internet than stopping crime. It's highly telling that the bill is tougher on pot growers than pedophiles.
I don't get the Conservative hate-on for marijuana. I can't stand the stuff, but I don't care for alcohol or tobacco either. I suppose if they thought they could get away with it, they'd criminalize alcohol too. But whatever the case, for all their talk, I'm not impressed with their crime bill. The people of Riverbend should look closely at what is being pushed onto their doorsteps and the effectiveness of those laws on actual criminal elements.
Theres also the question of cost effectiveness.. there isn't any. The Conservatives plan to just throw unlimited money at the problem rather than actually productively work to solve the underlying issues. Very simple minded of them.