Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cash spat over patrols

City may yank funding from BIZ

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THE city may claw back a portion of its funding to the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ if they cannot reach a financial agreement over the police cadet patrols in the city's downtown.

Last July, Winnipeg police cadets assumed responsibility of the Downtown BIZ's community-outreach patrol program. The BIZ patrols started in 2006 and picked up 3,000 people a year, taking people who are passed out or intoxicated to their homes or safe places such as the Main Street Project.

Protection and community services chairman Coun. Scott Fielding (St. James-Brooklands) said the Downtown BIZ made a public commitment of $100,000 a year when the city decided police cadets would take over the program. While the organization paid the sum for 2012 and the first quarter of 2013, Fielding said, the Downtown BIZ has not paid for the second quarter of 2013 or signed a formal funding agreement with the city.

Fielding said the city does not plan to pull the cadets out of the downtown, and he's hopeful the BIZ will fulfil its obligation. If not, he said the city will examine its options -- which may include withholding a portion of the city's annual contribution to the Downtown BIZ to cover its $100,000 share of the program costs.

Council's protection and community services committee laid the matter over for one month.

"We might not have made the decisions we made a year ago if we knew the funding commitment wouldn't be there," Fielding said Monday.

Downtown BIZ executive director Stefano Grande said the BIZ is still trying to negotiate an agreement and recently sent a letter to the city on behalf of its board. Grande said the current agreement proposed by the city is not in the best interest of the BIZ and its members as the city wants an annual grant of $100,000 in perpetuity with no contract end date or conditions.

He said the board can't in good conscious commit to an agreement that is "forever." Grande said they will continue to negotiate in good faith.

"We value the city as a partner," he said.

The funding spat comes on the heels of a report that shows violent crime in the downtown and North End dropped last year following a plan to increase police presence in high-risk areas.

Last week, Winnipeg police released an administrative report that shows the Portage Avenue districts -- which include the area around the University of Winnipeg, Portage Place, the sports and entertainment district and commercial areas around Portage and Main -- saw a 14.5 per cent reduction in the number of violent crimes, which includes assaults, sexual assaults, homicides and robberies, between March and December 2012.

The North End police district, which includes an area bounded by McGregor Street to the west, Dufferin Avenue to the south, Salter Street to the east and Burrows Avenue to the north, saw an 18.9 per cent drop in violent crime during the same time period.

Winnipeg police Staff Sgt. Max Waddell said police are cautiously optimistic about the initial results of their violent-crime-reduction strategy, which was rolled out in March 2012 and includes a plan to beef up police presence in the downtown and parts of the North End. While downtown is not crime-free, Waddell said police are using resources such as the police cadets to make sure people feel safer when they visit Winnipeg's downtown.

"We are happy with the progress but we have a lot of work to do yet," Waddell said.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 9, 2013 B1

History

Updated on Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 7:56 AM CDT: replaces photo

10:21 AM: adds BIZ info

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