Crime prevention in Winnipeg is a team effort; Police call collaboration essential
Daniel Hidalgo is working together with people in Winnipeg to reduce crime and give people a space to feel like family.
Hidalgo is a father to twins, the owner of the non-profit organization CommUNITY.204 – which celebrated its two-year anniversary on Thanksgiving — a student at the University of Manitoba, and co-founder of community safety group SABE Peace Walkers.
Group aims to treat people like ‘relatives,’ not ‘clients’
The SABE Peace Walkers are an Indigenous-led community safety group, who do their work within the Osborne Village area and are located at 190 Disraeli Freeway.
The name came from a discussion Hidalgo had with his co-founders Riley Nepinak and Mitch Bourbonniere. SABE is known as the Sasquatch or, more commonly, Bigfoot, which is the logo for the group.
“He is connected to spirit and he is rooted in honesty and being true to who you want to be in a good way, but he’s big and he’s protective and people might be intimidated by his presence,” said Hidalgo.
That root of honesty and trust is something the SABE Peace Walkers value and see as important in addressing the roots of crime in Winnipeg.
“It treats the people like relatives and not clients…because you would treat your relatives with dignity you would treat them with respect, kindness, care and compassion,” said Hidalgo.
They launched a 17-week pilot project, funded by the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Social Responsibility Program in August 2022 in collaboration with the Osborne Village BIZ.
When contacted by phone or text 431-293-SABE (7223), members will walk people to wherever they need to go. According to the Osborne Village Biz they are trained in the following areas:
- Non-violent crisis intervention
- Administering Naloxone
- First aid/CPR
- Trauma-informed practice
- Harm reduction
- Seven pipe laws and seven healing methods
Unmet needs cause spike in crime, mental health issues
It started because of the need Hidalgo and his co-founders saw for appropriate responses to marginalized communities — a need heightened in the last three years.
“Those resources were even further limited due to the pandemic,” said Hidalgo.
Hidalgo said the result of not having those needs met was an increase in mental illness, lateral violence toward people and an increase in criminal activity.
“When you’re in survival mode you resort to doing things you wouldn’t normally do to meet your needs,” said Hidalgo
Violent crime on upswing
Violent crime rates are trending up in Winnipeg, but others appear to be coming down.
According to the most recent Annual Statistical Report by the Winnipeg Police Service (2021 data), violent crime rates have seen a five per cent increase from 2020 but other crimes like property, traffic and drug offences are decreasing.
Politicians urged to take part
Hidalgo said the main way politicians and mayoral candidates can support community organizations like the SABE Peace Walkers is to be present.
“Come in your sweats and a sweater, be a normal person, experience the frontline stuff and don’t just do it once,” said Hidalgo.
Hidalgo said forming relationships with people in the community is the most important way to understand what they need and how you can help.
“Sometimes they want to help, but they don’t know how,” said Hidalgo.
Collaboration is key, police say
Police spokesperson Const. Jay Murray said police collaborating with community groups is essential to bringing down crime rates.
“We’ve been very open in the past when we’ve said that we simply can’t police our way out of a lot of the issues that we’ve seen here stem in Winnipeg related to crime in the city,” said Murray.
Tackling the root of the problem has to be the focus to continue to prevent crime in the future.
“The big point of it is a lot of it stems from societal matters, it really is going to require working with the community and groups that are involved in the community to help combat the growing crime rate,” said Murray.
Murray extended an offer for any community groups to reach out to the WPS if they are interested in collaborating.
“If any kind of community group wants to liaise with us, it’s something we encourage and something we always welcome,” said Murray.
Group hopes to expand
Hidalgo said he wants to see everyone on the SABE team set up to last for the long haul.
“It’s my hope that we expand based on not only the need but the effectiveness of what we’re doing…I would love for us to be at the Thunderbird House Siloam Mission and the kind of core areas of marginalization,” said Hidalgo.
Hidalgo said he would also love to have a response vehicle with equipment to help people and alleviate some pressure that falls to paramedics.
Several mayoral candidates have pledged to continue to support the work of community-safety groups like SABE. For example, Rana Bokhari has pledged to fund community safety initiatives through a 10 per cent cut to the police budget. Scott Gillingham has pledged to make funding permanent for the Downtown Community Safety Partnership. Glen Murray is promising to use tax revenue from new housing projects to fund safety groups.
Eight other people are running: Chris Clacio, Idris Adelakun, Rick Shone, Jenny Motkaluk, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, Kevin Klein, Shaun Loney and Don Woodstock.
Winnipeg Better has published voters’ guides for all the mayoral candidates — in them you can find the candidates pledges on how they pledge to handle crime prevention in the city. The guides are located here, or from the site’s main page.
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Kalkidan Mulugeta is on Substack: https://lookcloser.substack.com/