Perception vs Reality

How safe is downtown Winnipeg? Let’s face it: for those of us who live, work or play downtown, chances are you or someone you know have at one time or another questioned your safety in the city centre. And hearing stories …

How safe is downtown Winnipeg?

Let’s face it: for those of us who live, work or play downtown, chances are you or someone you know have at one time or another questioned your safety in the city centre. And hearing stories in the news about crime can be disconcerting.

The Downtown Winnipeg BIZ works closely with the Winnipeg Police Service, Cadets, local property owners and businesses, Impark and other partners to provide support and extra “eyes and ears” for this vibrant Winnipeg community.

Your downtown safety includes:
– Downtown Winnipeg BIZ Watch Team – a 25 member team, plus hundreds of volunteers, who serve as Ambassadors patrolling downtown streets from 8:30am to 11:00pm every day. These safety ambassadors, dressed in red and black, are happy to provide assistance and safewalks. Just ask!

For a SafeWalk, call 204.958.SAFE (7233)

– Community Homeless Assistance Team (CHAT) – Eight outreach workers, connecting those at risk to social agencies and social providers.
– Winnipeg Police Service – Sixteen foot patrols are now downtown, in addition to the additional Police support.

– Cadets – Two dedicated Cadets are always downtown, along with many other Cadets providing support when they’re not in demand in other place in the City.
– Downtown Safety Network – This network, made up of local businesses and Property Owners, is an information sharing system, sharing Police updates, best practices, timely information and more with downtown businesses.
– CCTV camera system – This system includes CCTV cameras throughout the downtown.
– Parksafe – A new partnership with Impark that includes extra visibility, patrols and safety in downtown parking lots and parkades.

For additional information, please learn about the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ Safety Committee.

Is downtown really less safe than elsewhere in the city?

Winnipeg Police Service crime statistics since 2001 have shown a downward trend in crimes against people and property in downtown. Crime in the downtown was down 4% January 2017 compared to January 2016. Less than 10% of assaults in Winnipeg happen downtown. This is a relatively small number considering all the people who live, work and play downtown every day—approximately 70,000 employees, 14,000 residents, 10,000 students and thousands of people shopping, dining and going to events and appointments.

And while across the city, WPS stats from 2011 show a 26% decrease in crime, downtown experienced a decrease of 44%. The Downtown BIZ partners with the police and with Manitoba Public Insurance to increase safety downtown and to help people protect their vehicles. When parking anywhere in the city, it is important to remember to lock your car, place valuables out of sight, and use a club or other anti-theft device.

What do you consider to be “downtown”?

Another thing to keep in mind when hearing news stories is that many crimes reported to happen “downtown” actually happen outside the central downtown area, or Downtown BIZ zone—a good distance from where you work, shop and play. While safety is an important issue that the Downtown BIZ is working hard to address, the sad fact is that no area in Winnipeg is crime-free.

Safety is the number one issue for downtown businesses. And almost half of Winnipeggers don’t think downtown is safe.

But what’s the reality? Is downtown really less safe than other areas of the city? Or is this just a deeply entrenched perception that is perpetuated by every negative newspaper headline?

The Winnipeg Police Service tracks crimes across the city, including for District One, which is where downtown falls within. District One includes 16 other neighbourhoods. The BIZ successfully advocated for the WPS to shade the actual downtown part of District One in order to more clearly reflect what is happening in the city centre. Check out CrimeStats in District 1.

How do we change these negative perceptions?

One of the best ways to change the perceptions of Winnipeggers about our downtown is to give them a lot of diverse reasons to visit downtown—and give them great experiences when they’re here.

When tens of thousands of Winnipeggers come downtown to watch a ball game, or enjoy a  concert, or wait in line for a seat at a popular restaurant, a majority go away thinking, “what safety issues?” Creating more reasons for people to come downtown—whether for Winnipeggers to live, work or play—is one solution, which is why the work of CentreVenture, The Forks North Portage Partnership, and private sector developers should be applauded.  This must continue and quicken, as a means to fully revitalize our downtown. More people on the streets puts safety back into perspective.

The BIZ also recognizes that the mere physical presence of panhandlers, poverty and youth at times creates perceptions of safety concerns. Downtown is diverse. Downtown is home to people of all incomes, from many cultural backgrounds, with a visible homeless and poor population. Many suburbanites aren’t accustomed to coming face-to-face with poverty, and it can be a shocking and uncomfortable reminder when they come downtown and see the mix of socioeconomic levels. Ending poverty and homelessness is the responsibility of everyone, and is a long-term challenge that must be addressed by the broader community. There needs to be open discussion among Winnipeggers to nurture tolerance and understanding. The Downtown BIZ is committed to helping address this important issue – to find out more about what we’re doing, including the CHAT Program, Change for the Better and the CEO Sleepout, visit our Homelessness Assistance section.

Changing perceptions about Downtown Winnipeg

What do you think of Downtown Winnipeg? Think it’s not clean? The Downtown BIZ has two sidewalk vacuums and an 8-person crew that clean downtown sidewalks every day. Feel unsafe? The BIZ has 25 Downtown Watch ambassadors happy to give you a SafeWalk. Think there’s nothing to do? There are over 200 restaurants and almost 5 million visits to downtown entertainment, arts and attractions every year. Think downtown is going nowhere? Over 850 million dollars have been invested in new downtown development projects. What DO you think about downtown? Think again. This is YOUR downtown…and it’s getting better all the time.

We’re here to help!