How do you solve a problem…

As I’m sure many of you heard, a pretty sad and scary incident occurred outside the LO Pub the other night. The long and short of it is, four men ended up in the hospital with stab wounds after a fight broke out between some guys outside and some guys who had left the show happening that at the bar that night. I know whenever I turn on the news or open the paper and see this kind of thing has happened downtown, it always leaves me a little bit heartbroken and very dejected.

We all know the most vociferous complaints about downtown are about safety. Even people who spend plenty of time down here and generally have good feelings towards downtown, voice their opinions that they often don’t feel safe. And when incidents like this happen, it makes it that much harder to convince them otherwise.

The truth is downtown’s safety issue is generally more about perception than actual safety. Less than 5% of every crime that happens in the city, happens downtown.

But for a lot of people, their perceptions of how safe they feel have more to do with the people around them. I know a lot of people say they feel unsafe when they are panhandled on the street–but that poor homeless guy is probably no more harmful than a kitten, he just seems scary.

I hear stories of people who encounter aggressive panhandlers and I usually wonder what that person did to provoke the panhandler. I’ve been asked for money more times than I can count and a polite “no, I’m sorry”, has never done me wrong. I’m a woman who spends every day downtown and I feel safe. Sure, things get a little scarier when the sun sets, but that’s normal. I’d feel a little wary walking through the suburbs at night too–that’s what the dark does. That’s why we’re afraid of it as children.

Unfortunately, when violent incidents like the one above happen, it casts a very negative light on everything and statistics and facts get drowned out in the sound of gunshots or stab wounds. But things like that happen everywhere and as it has been attested, this fight was simply the result one guy’s beef with another guy. They could have just as easily been at a bar on Pembina Highway or in St. James and had the same result.

Jack Jonasson runs the LO Pub and has certainly taken this incident to heart. In an email to his Facebook group yesterday, he talked about how much it hurts to see something like this happens. He offered these words:

“For the two and a half years that I’ve been running this place, I’ve worked long and difficult hours helping to develop our downtown and this place into a safe, comfortable and inviting community for everyone that walks in the door, and I think we’ve done a great job. We’ve had two and a half years with no major problems, all while helping to support the music and arts community in Winnipeg in a way that few others are or can.

I implore you all not to let the actions of a few troubled individuals change your perceptions of what we do here. We are committed to seeing the blood, sweat, love and tears that we’ve poured into this place through.”

Words like this certainly make me feel that all is not lost. There are a lot of hardworking and dedicated people out there doing everything they can to improve our downtown. I know things aren’t perfect, but they are getting better. And I’ll throw one more statistic at you–rates of crime in downtown are actually dropping every year. Just in the last year along, they’ve gone down by 14%. Change is happening.

The LO Pub is having a special event tomorrow afternoon at 4:30 pm (330 Kennedy Street) to talk about safety while enjoying some nibbles and drinks. I encourage you to attend and show your support for downtown, because to solve problems like these, it will take the entire community working together.

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