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A look at the Minneapolis safety model inspiring plans for Winnipeg

Several groups in Minneapolis share information as crime is happening downtown, helping to collar suspects.

Global News was given a tour of a safety model used in downtown Minneapolis that could be inspiring plans for a safer Winnipeg. Part one of our three-part series focuses on collaboration and how it’s helping police in Minneapolis. Stay tuned this week for look at the city’s integrated approach to homelessness, and how representatives from Manitoba are reacting to it.

A partnership between the public and private sectors to help fight crime in downtown Minneapolis is getting rave reviews and a similar alliance in Winnipeg is taking notes.

The Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District (DID), an organization that looks after the city’s core, works closely with local police and public, private and non-profit organizations to help keep the streets safe.

“It’s really a remarkable partnership we have going here in downtown Minneapolis,” Insp. Bill Peterson told Global News.

READ MORE: Violent crime spike prompts Winnipeg police to re-assign front lines; will impact public services

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The DID has its own office inside the downtown Minneapolis police station, along with a civilian-run safety communications centre, which serves as a downtown safety information hub.

The dispatch ambassadors respond to non-emergency pedestrian requests on the streets, track weather and emergency news alerts and co-ordinate with outreach services for people in need.

“If a car breaks down, we’ll have a truck out there to jump you,” DID Director of Safety Initiatives Shane Zahn said. “If somebody is lying down in a doorway, we can help.”

The DID Safety Communications Center is staffed 365 days a year.
The DID Safety Communications Center is staffed 365 days a year. Joe Scarpelli/Global News

Ambassadors also monitor public downtown cameras and can easily communicate with police, private security and outreach workers using a system called RadioLINK.

This helps to expand the reach of law enforcement as there are an estimated 13 private security officers for every police officer in downtown Minneapolis, according to the DID.

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Sgt. Rob Illetschko said the system comes in handy when police are searching for a suspect who may have fled into a building or the skyway system.

“This would be a situation where I can get ahold of the safety communications centre dispatcher, give out a description and that dispatcher can take that information, get on RadioLINK and disseminate that information,” he said.

Security guards from more than 60 downtown buildings would then be on the lookout for the suspect.

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“RadioLINK has many times resulted in some very good arrests of some serious suspects that we’ve been out looking for,” Illetschko said.

READ MORE: New pilot project partners City of Winnipeg, True North, Downtown BIZ to reduce crime

The Minneapolis safety model is inspiring a pilot project in Winnipeg that will see private security and ambassadors work collaboratively with support from police and the City of Winnipeg to deter crime.

Global News was given the same tour that representatives from Manitoba were given in Minneapolis this summer.

A new, informal partnership between the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, True North Sports & Entertainment, City of Winnipeg and Winnipeg Police are in the process of tailoring the Minneapolis strategy to fit local needs.