Council motion seeks to reopen district police stations to public


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A call to open all four of Winnipeg’s district police stations to provide round-the-clock service to the public will be considered at city hall.

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A call to open all four of Winnipeg’s district police stations to provide round-the-clock service to the public will be considered at city hall.

A new motion raised by Coun. Russ Wyatt calls for the locations to be open for walk-ins 24-7 to increase public access and help foster partnerships between the Winnipeg Police Service and the community.

“A commitment was made by the Winnipeg police, and by council, that we were making these brand-new stations (approved in 2003), multi-million-dollar stations available to the public, to be accessible and available,” Wyatt said in an interview. “The (COVID-19) pandemic is now over, other offices are now opening up, it’s time for these offices to open up.”

Wyatt’s motion aims to switch the downtown WPS headquarters on Smith Street, the west district station on Grant Avenue, the north district facility on Hartford Avenue, and the east district station on Dugald Road to round-the-clock service.

The city’s website notes the west, north and east stations are currently closed to the public, while the downtown HQ is open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

The councillor said it’s especially important Winnipeg make this change in the midst of high crime rates to make it convenient for folks to report incidents or even have a safe place to go.

“It’s crucial that the support be given to open up these offices properly without impacting front-line services elsewhere… You need a police presence in the community,” said Wyatt.

Such a change would require the approval of the Winnipeg Police Board, a group Wyatt expects councillors will refer the motion to next month.

He does not have an estimate of what the changes would cost, but noted the stations could be staffed by a mix of police officers and civilian employees.

Coun. Markus Chambers, chairman of the Winnipeg Police Board, said the non-downtown stations have been closed to the public since the pandemic hit in 2020. Chambers said the closure is linked to the public health crisis and a surge in violent crime.

“As COVID started and people weren’t attending the district offices to report crimes… (We’ve also seen) a spike in crimes, especially in the downtown area and at The Forks. Those officers have now been deployed for foot traffic in the downtown area,” he said.

Officers have not been moved back to district offices because the amount of traffic at those sites didn’t warrant the change, said Chambers, noting residents can still file crime reports online and at the downtown HQ.

Reopening the facilities to the public would come at a cost, he said.

“The question is: is there an appetite to hire more police for that purpose? It was initially decided that having an officer sitting at a desk to take a couple reports a day, there’s better use of their time, in terms of being out on the streets.”

The motion comes as council is lobbied by multiple groups to reduce its spending on police services. They argue this would free up funding for community services such as libraries and other recreation — investments they expect would help prevent crime and make communities safer.

In a brief emailed statement, a WPS spokesperson appeared to indicate the district hours could be changing in the future.

“The Winnipeg Police Service has identified there is a gap and is in the process of addressing this issue,” said Const. Dani McKinnon.

When asked for further detail, McKinnon added only: “The issue is being reviewed and a potential solution is under review.”

Meanwhile, another motion to boost councillors’ ward allowances, which Wyatt also raised, won’t take place.

On Thursday, council voted to take no action on his call to boost each councillor’s annual office budget to $159,000 from $84,924 — which Wyatt argued is desperately needed to help elected officials retain staff.

Mayor Scott Gillingham told media ward allowances will be addressed in the 2023 budget but declined to offer details.

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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