July 19, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
10 NEW WATCH ON DOWNTOWN STREETS TO HELP EVENING EVENT CROWDS FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE
DOWNTOWN WINNIPEG—Ten more Downtown Watch ambassadors are now patrolling downtown’s streets in the evenings, specifically around event destinations to create more feelings of safety among the increasing number of people coming downtown. In addition, the Watch are regularly setting up “welcome kiosks” to hand out downtown information and maps, provide directions, and offer SafeWalks to downtown visitors.
The 10 additional Watch staff frequent areas of the downtown in which there is vibrant activity attracting people to enjoy our downtown. Whether it’s a large event at a hotel or restaurant, a function at the Art Gallery or Convention Centre, a sold out show at the MTS Centre or Shaw Park, a festival in a downtown public space, or a future Jets game, expect a greater presence of our Watch who will be meeting and greeting people, offering all our ambassadorship services and providing an extra sense of safety and welcome.
“This increase in Watch shows the commitment from downtown businesses that we are dedicated to providing a safe, positive experience for people coming downtown,” says Stefano Grande, Downtown Winnipeg BIZ executive director. “This step is in response to the fact more and more people are coming downtown in the evenings to enjoy the numerous wonderful events we have here. We want to make sure they feel comfortable as they come and go from their event destinations.”
There has also been an increased safety focus on Portage Avenue this summer, with more Watch presence on the street and at BIZ kiosks along Portage Avenue during weekdays to provide information, directions, maps, and SafeWalks.
In addition to extra cleaning on Portage, there are also buskers and sidewalk sales, more patios, tables and chairs, and concerts. It’s all part of the BIZ’s new initiative, Portage Alive, which aims to activate the street with positive programs and initiatives. Our goal is to also encourage Portage Avenue businesses and property owners to be part of the solution in changing perceptions of Portage Avenue by taking extra care of the sidewalk in front of their properties.
“With more activities happening, more people will be drawn out onto the street, and with more people comes a natural feeling of safety,” says Grande.
An estimated 13.5 million people visit downtown arts and entertainment venues every year. More than 2.8 million tourists visit Winnipeg each year with the majority of overnight visitors staying at one of downtown’s 19 hotels.
Downtown crime continues to decrease, comprising less than five per cent of all crimes in our city. But several surveys have indicated that while the perceptions of downtown safety have improved during the day, they remain lower in the evening. And as more and more visitors are returning downtown after hours, the Downtown BIZ is demonstrating the business community’s leadership in addressing these issues, even while we continue to advocate for more police resources in our downtown.
The Downtown Watch program has a total of 22 Watch staff and over 200 Watch volunteers, in addition to 10 Outreach Patrol staff who assist intoxicated individuals. Dressed in red and black, the Watch are on patrol 24 hours Tuesday to Saturday and from 7:30am to 11pm on Sundays and Mondays. In the summer, 10 Bike Patrol ambassadors join the team to circulate through downtown more quickly.
The Watch safety ambassadors patrol the streets and skywalks, providing SafeWalks and keeping watch for suspicious activity. They help out wherever they can, from jumping in to direct traffic if a light goes out, to assisting with panhandlers or intoxicated individuals, to calling police if they spot someone stealing a bike.