July 10, 2019 7:30 am

Winnipegger turns to confrontation as police response times grow for property crimes

Mark Sommers pictured in his backyard where the break-in took place.

Marek Tkach / Global News

A Winnipeg man says he decided to take matters into his own hands after once again finding a thief in his West End yard.

Mark Sommers heard someone breaking through his fence over the weekend, so he peered out his window to find an intruder in his back yard.

“I was just sick and tired of it, because it’s not the first time,” he said.

He asked the man to get off his property before the thief pulled out a knife.

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“His first thrust, I just tossed him aside and hit him in the side of the head,” said Sommers. “When he was down, I stomped on his knee.”

At that point, Sommers said he left the yard, and the man fled.

Stretched thin

Winnipeg police have commented numerous times over the past several months that their resources are being stretched thin.

So far this year, city police have dealt with 24 homicides, a number more than the entire total in 2018.

READ MORE: ‘It’s happening in every neighborhood’: Winnipeg police see dramatic spike in property crime

“We all come to work to solve crimes and we all do this job to try and make this city a better place,” Const. Rob Carver said in June. “We’re starting to run out of energy.”

After a thief tunneled through a wall of a Transcona butcher shop, the shop owner told Global News that he was told police wouldn’t be able to investigate for a few days.

Carver said June 20 that police respond based on the threat level in each incident.

The increasing number of bizarre and dangerous incidents due to people believed high on meth means police aren’t able to address some property crime in a timely manner, he added.

READ MORE: Violent weekend means not enough cops to deal with meth crisis: Winnipeg police union president

“Property crimes, even though we are devoting resources to solving them, are still going to have response times that involve a couple of days.”

Now some people are taking matters into their own hands, said Maurice Sabourin, president of the Winnipeg Police Association.

“I think citizens are tired of having to wait for the police to respond to their emergencies,” he said.

Winnipeg Police Association President, Maurice Sabourin.

Marek Tkach / Global News

If the police aren’t able to arrive immediately, some property owners may choose to try to confront thieves themselves, a situation that worries Sabourin.

“Citizens are going to get themselves into a position that is going to be very, very bad,” he said.

“We’ve seen confrontations turn into homicides.”

Defending yourself

So, when people are in a situation where an intruder is seconds away from harming you or stealing your property, what can they do?

“You can use no more force than is necessary,” said Winnipeg-based criminal defense lawyer Josh Rogala.

Calling 911 is your first priority, but Rogala said that’s not always possible, or police aren’t able to immediately respond.

Winnipeg Criminal Defense Lawyer, Joshua Rogala.

Marek Tkach / Global News

“If someone is in your house and they have a knife, and you arm yourself with a knife, is that proportionate? Probably. If you arm yourself with a gun, is that proportionate? Probably not at that point in time,”

Rogala says the courts usually recognize a person’s right to defend themselves and their property, but the police association is most concerned with public safety.

“When we have criminals out there who don’t think twice about assaulting police officers, you could imagine those same people being confronted by a citizen,” Sabourin said.

WATCH: Violent weekend means not enough cops to deal with meth crisis: Winnipeg police union president

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