Monday, March 10, 2014

Canada: Despite a Lack of Population Density, Crime Deterrence Abounds at The Forks

According to The Winnipeg Free Press, it has been nearly a week since a former University of Manitoba Bisons offensive lineman Sam Nemis, 31, a 2007 member of the Vanier Cup-winning University of Manitoba was stabbed by three assailants at The Forks.

For those that are not familiar with Canadian geography, The Forks is a wonderful historic site, a classic meet-up and wonderful piece of grass encompassing a fourteen-acre plot in Downtown Winnipeg. 

In 1974, The Forks was designated a National Historical Site of Canada due to its special status as a gathering point for all peoples to gather and enjoy.

The Forks remains a special place and attracts roughly four million visitors according to the The Forks' annual report for 2013.

Now, let's get back and talk about Sam Nemis again. First of all, you don't miss Sam. He is formidable, standing 6-foot, three inches tall and weighing in at 300 pounds. At 31, he's hardly a push-over!

COMMENT: On Sunday (March 2), Sam Nemis, like so many outdoors-minded Canadians, decided to go to The Forks and relax by cross-country skiing.

Unfortunately, for Sam, his rights were not respected that day. Three assailants  did their very best to end the ever-present linesman's life.

If a criminal who depends on stealing from well-minded citizens, Sam is not an ideal target, considering his strength, height and power.

Sam was also working as a security guard at Health Sciences Center (HSC) in order to complete his economics degree, so he was well-trained.

Let me now set the stage for you:

Last Sunday evening at roughly 1900 hours the sun was down, but The Forks was still illuminated up when Sam was attacked--next to the river-ice hockey rink.

"They [suddenly' put their arm around my neck. And jabbed something into my side." At first he thought it was someone he knew who was goofing around. He didn't realize he had just been stabbed.

They pushed the former linesman to the ground, which was easy given the surprise attack and that the fact that he was wearing skis.

Sam quickly noticed one of the three attackers had a knife in his hand. His earphones were off now (one of them, at least) and he could hear what they were yelling. "They wanted my wallet," Sam thought.

Sam didn't even have a wallet on him. His first instinct was to try to defuse the situation by using the non-violent crisis intervention training he had learned and practiced almost daily at HSC.

"I'm trying to explain to them, 'Everything's OK, let's just calm down.'"

Sam pointed to where his Jeep was parked above The Forks. His wallet was there, he told them. They could have his keys.

Not surprisingly, Sam's assailants didn't believe him.

"...I tried to see what I had for resources around me. Can I see people? Can I run away? Where would I go? Is there anything around here I could defend myself with? And the answer was no."

"I realized they were going to kill me."

Sam soon realized that with all his non-violent efforts having been exhausted, he realized it was time to fight back. 

"I said no, I'm not going to die this way. This is not how it's going to happen. I'm not going to stand for this," told himself.

Even before he began swinging aimlessly at his assailants, he decided his strategy. His father had coached him on what to do if he was outnumbered in a fight:

Go after the leader and do your worse. The leader was the one who had the knife.

Sam grabbed the knife...by the blade.

That's when the two other assailants used Sam's ski to beat him and his pole to stab him in the back.

That's when Sam decided to stop fighting and flee.

Sam ran out onto the ice, screaming "Help, help, help. Call police. I've been stabbed."

By now, fortunately, someone fortunately heard his cries for help and called police. As Sam would later discover, police had arrested his three assailants before he even left in an ambulance for HSC.


Sam says he's not going to stop going to The Forks, or skiing on the frozen rivers of Winnipeg. He calls The Forks his "happy place."

After being hospitalized, Sam said: "They didn't realize that my will to live was stronger than their will to rob me."

Sam later learned that another crime victim was robbed at gunpoint for her iPad on Friday (February 22)! That's two felonies in the same place...in the course of an eight-day period.

Roughly a week earlier, a woman of 55 had gone to meet a friend for coffee at The Forks. She was alone, climbing the stairs of the observation deck with her iPad to take a photo of the ice where the Winnipeg Jets would hold an outdoor practice the next day.

Unfortunately, the victim in the iPad robbery would later learn that she was robbed with an air gun, yet, of course, she didn't realize that at the time. To her, though, the threat was life-threatening.

The next point is really important to emphasize: 

Few criminals bent on armed robbery, assault, forcible rape and even homicide rarely commit such dastardly acts when police are present, which is why ALL frequently visited and popular meeting places need redunant security deterrents.

Now, here's the interesting part: There were seemingly other witnesses to the armed robbery of the woman who had had her iPad stolen! Why did none of them come to the aid of the crime victim?

The short answer seems to be: Apathy. Fear...and the majority of urban Canadians not being familiar with firearms, or a combination of all three. 

As a retired federal agent, I raised my two daughters from the time they were little to be able to protect themselves, emphasizing that criminals never expect victims to resist, which is a weakness for them. So please use such weakness.

Interestingly, the only person the husband of the crime victim could find at The Forks on February 22 was the monitor of a bank of surveillance camera monitors staring blindly into them.

No provincial police officer assigned to keep citizens safe. No emergency call boxes. No park ranger. Nothing!

All governments should anticipate foreseeable criminal events. Those that don't deprive citizens of their freedom and having choices to enjoy life to the fullest.

If The Forks doe not act proactively and promptly, its 4 million visitors each year will soon decline.

So...a provincial police officer obviously was not assigned at The Forks to prevent two felonies in the course of a week. As for the bank of security monitors monitored by a youngster, zero deterrence apparently.

One last thought. Given two armed robberies in a week, it may be appropriate for the management of The Forks to fund a significant poll of visitors to determine just how much crime is actually occurring there. My guess is that the results will be surprisingly...illuminating.