By James Turner
Winnipeg Sun – February 2, 2012
Winnipeg police have unveiled a long-awaited downtown foot patrol in hopes of curbing negative safety perceptions in the often-badmouthed area.
“This is an important step for us,” Winnipeg police Chief Keith McCaskill said Thursday in unveiling the seven-man, one-woman patrol.
The beat cops will work days and evenings and are assigned to specific areas in the downtown. Their first day on the job was last Sunday.
The cops’ presence will help enhance safety, engage the public and reduce negative impressions people have about crime in the area, the service hopes. The patrol does not interfere with other downtown-safety resources already in place, McCaskill said.
“We do know what a lot the problems are,” the top cop said, citing public intoxication, drugs and panhandling as identified issues.
“There’s hot spots in certain areas … we think that with concentrated people in those areas and have the ownership of that area, I think it’s going to make a difference.”
People are already reacting positively to the patrols’ presence, said Const. Lorraine McDonald. Her first day shift was Monday.
She described the current atmosphere on her day shift as “quiet.”
“As the weather gets warmer, it will probably pick up,” the former Vice Unit cop said.
Cops will be paying close attention to the area around the Portage Place mall, long identified as a problem area for drug slinging.
“It will be one of the places we monitor quite frequently,” she said.