Downtown Safety & Foot Patrols

 
 

Background

Downtown Winnipeg has often been thought to be unsafe after dark. However, perception is changing, and the majority of people now believe that the feeling of safety in downtown Winnipeg is increasing. The Downtown BIZ runs a number of programs that help people visiting or living downtown feel safe. The Downtown Watch features 290 easily recognizable ambassadors and volunteers walking the streets 7 days a week, who are trained to offer assistance when needed. They are available to walk someone to their car or bus stop if they feel unsafe alone, and can also quickly report crimes if they witness them. The Downtown BIZ also leads the Downtown Security Network, which is a police endorsed safety initiative that allows members to share resources and communicate with each other about safety issues.

Strengths

  • The University of Winnipeg draws many young people to the downtown
  • Residential development in the downtown core can bring in more people and ensure they stay past working hours
  • Events at the MTS centre bring many people downtown in the evenings
  • Downtown Watch provides eyes on the street and help for individuals trying to navigate downtown
  • Downtown Security Network connects downtown businesses, property owners and security teams to each other and to the BIZ and police

Weaknesses

  • Winnipeg residents might not be aware of the downtown safety resources that are available to them
  • People might feel like they are being a burden when they want to use some of the safety resources available

Threats

  • Public perception is difficult to change
  • Everyone leaves downtown when the work day is over and it is difficult to make people feel safe when there are no other people around
  • Harsh winter weather may keep people away and make downtown seem ‘deserted’ regardless of how safe it is
  • The skywalks offer a way to walk through parts of downtown without braving winter weather, but also take pedestrians off the street potentially leaving them empty

Opportunities

  • The size of Winnipeg’s downtown makes it possible for Downtown Watch members to patrol effectively
  • Proving to young people and new immigrants (University of Winnipeg students, many immigrants live downtown when they first arrive) that downtown Winnipeg is safer than ever before can help change perception
  • Many current development projects could create an opportunity to incorporate Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Principles (CPTED) (see http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/pubs/ccaps-spcca/safecomm-seccollect-eng.htm)

Option 1 – Change perception

  • Give Winnipeg residents diverse reasons to visit downtown
  • Ensure they feel safe when they come downtown
  • Educate people who aren’t from downtown about the realities of poverty and homelessness

Option 2 – Raise awareness of existing resources

  • Advertise downtown safety resources (i.e. on radio and TV commercials, online, in newspapers)
  • Safety teams could have a noticeable presence at or after downtown evening events

Option 3 – Provide services that encourage people to move downtown

  • In order for downtown to feel safe it has to be populated after working hours
  • People moving downtown need easy access to a grocery store
  • Encourage strategically located downtown businesses to remain open later so the downtown doesn’t feel ‘deserted’