Aug 24 2011
WINDSOR, Ont. - Windsor's long murder-free stretch is the talk of police departments across North America, with chiefs from Toronto to Minneapolis trying to figure how to make it happen in their cities.
Windsor hasn't had a homicide in the last 22 months — the longest murder-free stretch the southern Ontario city has seen in almost 50 years.
The city's last murder was on Sept. 27, 2009. Mohamed Mohamed Yusuf, 23, was killed during a gunfight involving members of a notorious Toronto street gang called the Ardwick Blood Crew.
"I believe it's an extraordinary accomplishment," said Toronto police Chief William Blair. "And people ask why. We talk about the availability of guns. We talk about some differences in culture and society. But it's also effective policing that I think is taking place in this community. I think it's a tribute to the people of Windsor, as well."
He said it's an "extraordinary contrast" to the level of violence seen across the border in neighbouring Detroit. The Detroit News has observed that city is on track to have it's highest number of murders in a decade — possibly topping 350.
Blair said he has talked about Windsor with his colleagues in the Major Cities Chiefs Association, made up of top cops from the largest cities in Canada and the U.S.
He said he also talked up Windsor with Chief Timothy Dolan from Minneapolis, who then wrote an op-ed piece about the city in USA Today.
Blair said Dolan had called him as he tried to contrast the price of illegal guns on the streets of Toronto with the price of guns on Minneapolis streets.
"I said that's a good example, but the best example is the contrast between Windsor and Detroit," said Blair, in Windsor for the annual Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police meeting.
"Then I explained the statistics, the difference in levels of violence between Windsor and Detroit. I think that really stands out to help illuminate the issue of why violence occurs in some places and not others. He wrote about that contrast."
Windsor police Chief Gary Smith said the city's non-existent murder rate is partly the result of a $2.2-million, taxpayer-funded reorganization of the force's investigative services a few years ago. It allowed police to "refocus on priorities."
"We really target drugs and gangs, because where there's drugs there's guns, where there's guns there's drugs," said Smith.
"We're reaping the benefits of that investment."
He said tightening the border likely played a role, too, allowing fewer guns and criminals into Windsor from Detroit.
Smith also pointed to the work of hospitals, paramedics and other first responders.
"The care they get when somebody gets injured, where it might be a homicide in the past, they're going to a trauma centre," said Smith. "Our hospitals are doing their job. Ambulance attendants are doing their jobs."
Better behaved citizens are also helping, he said.
"We don't have the problems we had downtown," said Smith. "A number of our homicides and serious injuries were those one-punch fights downtown. We don't have a lot of that anymore."
There is one other factor, said Smith.
"It is a little bit of luck," he said. "I hope by asking that question you haven't jinxed us."