Multiple local organizations are collaborating on a new safety pilot project looking to communities across North America in order to drum up strategies to help Winnipeggers feel safer downtown.
Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone, True North Sports and Entertainment Ltd., City of Winnipeg and Winnipeg Police Service announced Monday the launch of the Downtown Safety Partnership.
While the details — including funding sources — are still being sketched out, Kate Fenske, chief executive officer for Downtown Winnipeg Biz, said increasing foot patrols downtown will play a key role.
"We know the businesses downtown say having our Watch Ambassadors on the streets of Winnipeg makes people feel safer. This isn’t about policing or security. This is about communication and collaboration," Fenske said Monday.
"(It’s about) doing things differently, just trying something new, and the social service agencies and the great work they’re doing is going to have a big part in this."
The multi-agency program has tapped Greg Burnett as its director of safety initiatives. While he now works with True North, he spent 28 years with the WPS, prior to joining Manitoba Justice after his retirement from law enforcement.
Burnett said he will look to the work being done in other communities as he begins to develop strategies that can be deployed in Winnipeg.
"We know the businesses downtown say having our Watch Ambassadors on the streets of Winnipeg makes people feel safer. This isn’t about policing or security. This is about communication and collaboration." - Kate Fenske, chief executive officer for Downtown Winnipeg Biz
"I’m hoping to develop a model by looking at the Minneapolis model, looking at Calgary and Edmonton, other western Canadian cities, jurisdictions, and see what’s going to be the best fit for Winnipeg as a whole," Burnett said.
"Visibility would be No. 1 on my list, and how we’re going to accomplish that, data integration, warehousing, sharing information, building those kinds of connectors between everybody, and then outreach... Bottom line is: we want people and citizens to feel safe wherever they are — feel safe and be safe."
Fenske said the group hopes to release additional details to the public in the coming weeks.
The group plans to roll out things in a targeted fashion, focusing on a particular area downtown, before — if the initiative is successful — expanding things out, Fenske said.
"We’re really hoping to move fairly quickly on this. We’re hoping to have some more information to share with Winnipeggers by early December about some of the things we might be looking at, and sort of taking an initial approach within the first six months," Fenske said.
"Bottom line is: we want people and citizens to feel safe wherever they are — feel safe and be safe." - Greg Burnett, Downtown Safety Partnership director of safety initiatives
"What are the things we can try within those first six months? Really, what’s key for us is to test this in a small area and then, if it is successful, we want to see what opportunities there are to expand it further over time."
Fenske said since the scope and exact nature of the new initiatives remain undecided, as of yet, there are no cost estimates.
"This is something we’ve been talking about for some time. We’re always looking for better ways to work together... This is looking at increased communication and better collaboration for all the work that’s already happening downtown," Fenske said.
— with files from Solomon Israel
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