WINNIPEG -- Increased foot patrols, expanded use of CCTV cameras and improved lighting top the list of recommendations included in the Manitoba Police Commission’s report on the safety of Winnipeg’s downtown.

The report, which was produced at the request of the province’s minister of justice, brought together representatives from the City of Winnipeg, Winnipeg Police Service and private sector stakeholders.

“I would view this information to assist as a roadmap, to assist in terms of the work that the Downtown Safety Partnership is doing,” said Justice Minister Cliff Cullen. “Certainly that work has started and I know they have a lot of work ahead of them and I’m hoping this document will help facilitate their discussions and their work as they go forward.”

The report includes a total of 27 recommendations and pays particular attention to foot patrols.

This emphasis on foot patrols contrasts with news emerging from Winnipeg city council in recent weeks that proposed budget cuts could actually reduce police resources, resulting in drastic cuts to or even complete elimination of the cadet program.

Police chief Danny Smyth noted the WPS has not been privy to any foot patrol conversations.

"There has been no discussions with the WPS regarding additional police foot patrols. The WPS made some internal adjustments to deploy additional foot patrols in November. This was accomplished by reassigning District Police Station Duty officers," said Smyth in a written statement. "This has resulted in the public closures of District Police Stations. Members of the public wanting to make reports in person are required to attend Police Headquarters."

"The conclusion of the report stated general findings that this is not a policing issue and that the police should not be the lead agency. This statement comes as a surprise. The WPS remains committed to Downtown Safety and will continue to advance the strategy outlined in our strategic plan."

Smyth also voiced his frustration regarding the consultation process, pointing out a WPS executive only had one meeting with the Manitoba Police Commission in October. While the WPS provided information, Smyth said it was not asked to make recommendations.

The report includes a recommendation that if analysis warrants, foot patrols be expanded through reallocation of funding.

It also recommends the expanded use of small, patrol vehicles such as golf carts or sidewalk-capable utility vehicles to allow wider areas to be covered more quickly.

This emphasis on foot patrols contrasts with news emerging from Winnipeg city council in recent weeks that proposed budget cuts could actually reduce police resources, resulting in drastic cuts to or even complete elimination of the cadet program.

Also recommended is a public education campaign highlighting the presence and function of non-police patrollers such as BIZ representatives in attending to wellness checks and other immediate street-level needs.

The report cites the approach to foot patrols taken in downtown Minneapolis, where they fulfill something of a triage function, connecting those in need to appropriate resources, from outreach and programming to emergency services.

Feedback received from stakeholders and the public suggested a ‘critical mass’ of foot patrols would help enhance not only safety but the perception of safety.

Feedback also indicated that foot patrollers need not necessarily be police officers, and that while police are needed to respond to criminal matters, anyone conducting patrol while wearing a uniform would increase the perception of safety.

The police commission received 174 responses from the public after opening consultations to the community and also asked for feedback from 28 downtown stakeholders, including the Bear Clan Patrol, Main Street Project and several others groups and organizations from the private and public sector.

No representatives from the City of Winnipeg or the Winnipeg Police Service were in attendance for Tuesday morning’s announcement on the release of the report.

Cullen said discussions are ongoing with the city on downtown safety.


The report also recommends the province look into amending the Highway Traffic Act to crack down on panhandling because it sometimes occurs on roadways and at busy intersections - it’s not yet clear how that could be accomplished.

“The people of Winnipeg consistently rate road safety as one of their top priorities,” said Manitoba Police Commission chairperson David Asper. “You’ve got an intersection of a road safety problem and a panhandling problem and there may be some room within the Highway Traffic Act to try to deal with that. That’s all we’re saying.

“It’s easy to say we’ve got to deal with panhandling. It’s not so easy to say how.”


The Winnipeg Community Wellness and Public Safety Alliance -- a group made up of police, firefighters, business leaders and health officials -- commissioned a separate 141-page business plan that includes a proposal to create a new $39-million addictions facility and drop-in centre with ongoing operating costs of $29 million.

The report makes mention of the alliance’s work, saying such a centre would provide people with a safe place to gather and offer a better way to help connect people to the services they need.


NDP Justice Critic Nahanni Fontaine said the report fails to the deal with the root causes of crime.

“I would suggest to you that the report is not comprehensive, it is not robust and it is missing very key recommendations on how to deal with this and first and foremost – again, dealing with the root causes,” said Fontaine. “People want to be safe downtown, we all want to be safe downtown. The fundamental way that you ensure Manitobans are safe is that we’re dealing with those root causes and we did not see that today.”

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said simply increasing security won’t help.

“It has to be more than just security theatre, right, where we’re going to pretend that everything’s better.” said Lamont. “We actually have to deal with making people better off. I heard somebody say that this is really more of a downtown sanitation plan, it’s about just cleaning people off and sweeping people under the rug."

-with files from CTV's Devon McKendrick