Winnipeg’s downtown safety partnership to feature 24-7 outreach teams, communications centre

Winnipeg’s downtown safety partnership will feature 24-7 outreach teams, communications centre
With $5 million in funding secured from the province, the Winnipeg's Downtown Safety Partnership is set to become a permanent non-profit responsible for shifting some responsibilities away from police. Global's Marney Blunt reports.

The Manitoba government is putting $5 million towards a new community safety partnership in Winnipeg’s downtown area, which it says will shift some responsibility away from police in certain situations.

A key feature of the new partnership is a 24-7 outreach presence in the city’s core for the first time, according to the province.

“Community-centred outreach teams who can connect citizens with the help they need — whether that’s mental health and addictions support or help upgrading their skills and finding a job — translates into a better downtown for everyone,” Marileen Bartlett, executive director of the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development and also a member of the Downtown Safety Partnerships’ (DSP) board of directors, said in a news release.

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The move will make the DSP into a permanent non-profit organization “dedicated to enhancing the health, safety and well-being of all members of the downtown community.”

Read more: Province tasks police commission to find downtown Winnipeg safety solutions

The DSP is made up of groups including the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, True North Sports & Entertainment, the Winnipeg Police Service and the City of Winnipeg.

According to the province, the DSP’s mandate includes:

  • Expanding the presence of downtown community outreach and safety teams and extending outreach hours to allow a 24-7 presence in key areas for the first time
  • Enhancing downtown outreach via new community service teams of highly trained community support workers who can address situations that do not require a police or paramedic response
  • Establishing a 24-7 downtown safety communications centre that will facilitate real-time information-sharing among downtown safety partners and support existing downtown agencies in their work

“Today’s funding helps us build an expanded, permanent, community-centred outreach presence that provides the right resources and support at the right time,” Kate Fenske, CEO of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, said in a news release.

Read more: Winnipeg’s public, private sectors look for ways to co-ordinate on downtown safety

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Too often, police officers are called to fulfill duties which fall beyond their scope, Mayor Brian Bowman told a small crowd at the Legislative Building.

“Handling these types of issues – health and social issues – requires us to think creatively and innovativley to reduce demands on police, so they can do only what they can do: enforce our laws, arrest criminals and investigate crimes,” Bowman said.

Inspector Dave Dalal, who oversees downtown Winnipeg’s police force, otherwise known as Division 11, welcomed today’s announcement, saying it’s clear the community wants a non-police response for various issues.

Read more: Enhanced camera surveillance, stiffer panhandling fines floated in safety report

“I’m very excited … we’re full supporters of extra resources going into downtown safety,” Dalal said.

“If new money is going to get spent, we’re happy to see some resources go into a community initiative that is meant to direct resources that aren’t police resources before they become police problems.”

The new organization will be run by a board of downtown stakeholders and will work with a community advisory committee.

The province says specific details about how the partnership will operate will be revealed in the coming weeks.

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The original Winnipeg downtown safety study’s initial report can be found here.

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