Summer violence grips Point Douglas

WINNIPEG — A wave of violent crime in Winnipeg’s Point Douglas neighbourhood has left some of the city’s most vulnerable people on edge.

Winnipeg police have responded to two serious assaults in the neighbourhood each of the past two nights, part of a spike in crime that has one community organization worried.

“The people that live in the building are expressing to us, especially later in the evening, they’re afraid to go out the door at times,” said Salvation Army Centre of Hope executive director Gordon Taylor.

It’s located near Main Street and Higgins Avenue, a neighbourhood where many of the city’s most vulnerable people go for food, shelter, and support.

Early Thursday, Winnipeg police responded to a serious assault in a green space not far from the centre. At 12:40 a.m., officers found a woman with what they described as severe injuries. She was taken to hospital in critical condition.

Early Friday, officers were back in the area at 2:35 a.m. because a man had been assaulted, was taken to hospital and is now in stable condition.

No arrests have been announced in either incident.

These latest assaults are part of what Taylor calls a particularly violent summer.

“In this part of town there are always some incidents going on but there’s more this year than we’ve seen in recent years,” he said. “It’s just emphasized when there’s specific outbursts like this and it wears on people.”

University of Winnipeg criminal justice professor Michael Weinrath said there may be a few factors to consider. They include fewer people on the street due to the pandemic, stress from COVID-19, and the weather.

“We know that there is a spike in crime in the summer,” said Weinrath. “And certainly we’ve had a very hot and dry summer and that is not new and it’s not unique to Winnipeg.”

Weinrath said those factors mixed with drug and alcohol use can lead to violent crime.

He said people with mental health issues living in poverty are often the ones who are victimized.

“If you’re going to have conditions where there might be more crime, they’re going to be the targets,” said Weinrath.

Wade, a client at the Centre of Hope, said it can be difficult for many to break the cycle of addiction or homelessness, given what he sees outside the front doors.

“I’ve seen lots of violence, it’s ridiculous,” he said. “I’ve seen stabbings, robbings. I’ve seen extreme drug use.”

“My family and my kids, they won’t even come visit me here,” said Wade. “It’s a shame, hey, but I don’t blame them. I don’t want them around here. It’s awful.”

He’s happy the Centre of Hope is continuing to install surveillance cameras in the area but he said more needs to be done to keep people safe.

The Centre of Hope said it’s working with Winnipeg police to help find solutions to the increased levels of violence.