Many respondents to a survey on community safety and well-being in Thompson say they plan to leave the city within two years, that they worry at least once a month about being victims of crime and that conditions in the city will be much worse within four years if changes aren’t made.
Those were among the results of the survey, designed by consultants with the Community Safety Knowledge Alliance (CSKA) in association with community organizations, with responses gathered from July 22 to Aug. 17.
Mayor Collen Smook said in a press release that there were few surprises among the survey results.
“We all live in the same community, and we all see the challenges we face every day,” said the mayor. “What matters now is how we can work together to address them.”
More than 50 per cent of about 1,500 people who answered a survey question about whether they planned to move from where they live now said yes, while out of 900 who indicated when they intended to do so, about three-quarters said within two years or less. Asked where they hoped to move to, more than 50 per cent of over 900 respondents said Winnipeg or elsewhere in southern Manitoba, and close to a quarter said they would like to move to another province.
On the subject of crime, more than half of nearly 1,600 respondents said they or a member of their household had been a victim of a crime within the last two years, while close to half said they worried about being the victim of a property crime like vandalism, theft or a break-in on daily basis. Abut three-quarters of a similar number of respondents said they worried once a month or more about being a victim of a crime against themselves like assault. Of close to 1,600 people who answered a question about what would happen to community safety in Thompson if nothing is done for the next three or four years, three-quarters said it would get much worse.
The survey was completed by more than 2,200 residents overall, about 17 per cent of Thompsons’s population, more than for any other survey in the past five years. Most respondents have lived in Thompson for 20 years or more and were between the ages of 25 and 59.
Positive features of Thompson identified by survey-takers included the city’s small geographical size, which makes it easy to drive or walk anywhere, as well as the beauty of the natural environment, the small-town feel and the friendly people and helpful neighbours.
The top five crime-related issues affecting the city were identified as alcohol and drug use, assaults and intimidation, public disorder, gangs and property crime.
On questions regarding the friendliness of Thompson, acceptance of ethnic and cultural differences, residents’ sense of belonging, their capability to pull together in the face of challenges and the variety of opportunities for people to come together, the largest portion of respondents chose three on a scale of one to five, placing them right in the middle between strongly disagreeing and strongly agreeing.
The Community Wellness and Public Safety Advisory committee co-chairs RCMP Staff Sgt. Chris Hastie and Dee Chaboyer said the community has to work together to improve public safety and residents’ perception of it.
“Addressing public safety in Thompson goes beyond crime and enforcement,” said Hastie, acting officer-in-charge of the Thompson RCMP detachment. “It will be about looking at individual actions, our environment as a city, as well as improving our sense of community and our sense of responsibility that we have to each other.”
Chaboyer, executive director of the Ma-Mow-We-Tak Friendship Centre, said the committee, which includes representatives from 19 organizations, has to build on approaches that are working and develop new ideas to deal with old issues.
“It’s about working with the community as a whole, to hear their experiences, and their ideas,” she said.
Thompson city council voted unanimously in favour of entering into an agreement with CSKA to continue with phase two of developing a community wellness and public safety strategy at its Sept. 8 meeting, at a cost of $50,000. The first phase cost $35,000 and was paid for by the provincial government, which pledged $300,000 towards the development of a public safety strategy for Thompson in May 2019, a few months before the last provincial election.
The committee will host two public forums to discuss and build on the feedback they received from survey respondents. The first will be Sept. 21 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., while the second will be Sept. 26 from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Both meetings will be held at the Ma-Mow-We-Tak Friendship Centre and are limited to 40 members of the public each. To attend, residents must pre-register by calling 204-677-0950.
The full key findings document can be viewed here.