Downtown BIZ boosts red shirt complement


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Downtown Winnipeg is about to receive an influx of people in red uniforms, well before the Montreal Canadiens come to town to play the Jets.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/07/2011 (4263 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Downtown Winnipeg is about to receive an influx of people in red uniforms, well before the Montreal Canadiens come to town to play the Jets.

The Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone has added 10 more Downtown Watch personnel to what used to be a 14-person complement in order to deploy more staff during peak afternoon and evening hours for the remainder of the summer.

Effective today, the Downtown BIZ will have 24 Downtown Watch “red shirts” on staff, including 10 new people to deploy between 2:30 and 11:30 p.m., said Stefano Grande, the organization’s executive director.

The additional staff will not be dedicated to specific areas of downtown, but will be deployed around high-activity areas such at the MTS Centre on concert nights, Grande said.

Downtown Watch staff, officially called ambassadors, are supposed to offer tourists directions and information but also report crimes and prevent vehicle theft and vandalism. They have no powers of arrest but are equipped with two-way radios and are trained to administer first aid, if needed.

The additional staff will add approximately $200,000 to the $700,000 program, Grande said. All the money has been raised from Downtown BIZ members, he said.

The Downtown Watch program is separate from the BIZ’s 10-person Community Outreach Patrol pilot program, which tries to reduce the number of public-intoxication calls that tie up Winnipeg’s police and fire-paramedic services.

Outreach patrol staff have the power to arrest people under the Intoxicated Persons Detention Act but also administer food, water and blankets. Staff attempt to connect homeless people with provincial social-service agencies, Grande said.

“You can’t tell the difference between the Watch and the Outreach. They’re both dressed in red,” he said. “They just have difference crests.”

The city and province both help fund the $350,000 downtown outreach program. Earlier this year, the city contemplated pulling its $66,000 contribution due to the advent of the Winnipeg Police Service’s new auxiliary cadets, who also have the power to arrest intoxicated people.

The funding will continue this year, as the Downtown BIZ remains in discussions with the police about maintaining service levels for the intoxicated throughout downtown.

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