Winnipeg police hope foot patrol will improve downtown safety
It may not be a place every Winnipegger is eager to spend their time, but police are confident the city’s downtown core isn’t as bad as its reputation.
On Friday, WPS members addressed some concerns surrounding the area after recent crimes — including a random bus shelter attack — has some speaking out.
“It has seen its share of challenges but I think we are on the upswing,” Const. Aaron Bourque said. “There’s a lot of potential there.”
Bourque is one of 16 foot patrol officers tasked with keeping District 11 safe. That means his shifts are spent circling through downtown and monitoring the activity, which includes a lot of variation.
Bourque was the responding officer after the Portage Place attack, but much of his time is also spent chatting with those experiencing homelessness or checking in on area businesses.
He said communication and relationships with residents are the keys to cleaning up parts of Winnipeg that need it.
“There is a tangible community here and I know a lot of those people,” Bourque said. “I look out for them.”
Patrol Sgt. Sami Haddad agrees. He said on Friday that the singular boots-on-the-ground approach not only shows Winnipeggers in the area that there is help if they need it; it also bridges a gap between police and the average person.
“I want us to be part of the community,” Haddad said. “[So it’s] like, ‘Oh, no big problem, the police are here.'”
Haddad believes it’s the WPS’ increased foot patrol presence in the core that can alleviate some concerns that may lie with downtown safety.
“We can make a presence downtown and be visible and tend to these people’s needs because we can walk right up to them,” Haddad said.
Officers like Bourque scan alleyways and skywalks every day. They not only look out for businesses and individuals but make their mark chatting with residents and making sure complaints are addressed.
They’re confident that if police have relationships with those that frequent problem areas, places like the strip in front of Portage Place won’t seem so threatening.
“Downtown Winnipeg has a lot going for it,” Bourque said. “If we carry on with some of the initiatives that have been started and see them through until the end, we can really make something here.”
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