Global News was given a tour of a safety model used in downtown Minneapolis that could be inspiring plans for a safer Winnipeg. In part three of our three-part series, we ask representatives from Manitoba about local plans.
A coordinated effort to help fight crime in downtown Minneapolis is getting interest from partners in Winnipeg hoping to bring a similar model north of the border.
Representatives from the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, True North Sports & Entertainment, City of Winnipeg, Winnipeg Police Service and Manitoba Police Commission travelled to Minneapolis this summer to take notes on the city’s downtown safety model.
Officials in Minneapolis say their approach to crime and homelessness is built on trust and communication between the public and private sectors.
“We have to look at how we are going to do that here,” Winnipeg Downtown BIZ CEO Kate Fenske said.
The Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District (DID), an organization similar to the BIZ, works closely with local police, government, private businesses, and non-profit organizations to address safety concerns and respond to non-emergency calls in the city’s downtown.
The DID operates a safety communications centre inside the downtown Minneapolis police station, where civilian dispatchers can easily communicate with their foot patrols, outreach workers and police through a shared radio system while monitoring public cameras at the same time.
A new agreement between Winnipeg’s public and private sectors, called the Downtown Safety Partnership (DSP), is hoping to tailor the Minneapolis strategy to fit local needs.
Fenske said the project is going to build on current efforts already underway to improve downtown safety.
“We know all the great work that’s happened,” Fenske said. “How do we build on that? What new things do we need to try?”
Former police officer Greg Burnett, who was recently hired by True North as its director of safety initiatives, went to Minneapolis with Fenske.
Burnett said it’s too early to say which parts of the Minneapolis model he’d like to bring to Winnipeg.
“I think everything is on the table,” he said. “If we’re going to do this, let’s start thinking different and then do different.”
It’s not clear what requests might be brought before council, but Mayor Brian Bowman told Global News he supports the project.
“This is one potential source of some good ideas and better collaboration than we’ve seen in the past,” Bowman said.
Winnipeg police said in an email the project has the support of WPS as well.