After ‘encouraging’ results, province extends funding for Winnipeg police retail theft initiative

The Manitoba provincial government is extending funding for an anti-theft initiative in Winnipeg, as a business owner in one of the city’s top areas for retail theft says the program is making a difference.

In late May, the province said it was giving police a short-term funding boost to pay for units focused on areas identified as retail theft hot spots.

A government spokesperson said last week the initial funding amount for the initiative in June was $387,000, and funding will now be extended into July, as officials work with Winnipeg police to determine what resources are needed.

“We want to make sure people feel safe when they come downtown, when they’re taking in the festivals in our great Exchange District, or coming down to Osborne Village,” Justice Minister Matt Wiebe told CBC last week. 

The Village is one of the neighbourhoods targeted by Winnipeg police as part of the initiative.

Some high-profile businesses in the area — including the area’s Starbucks location — have closed their doors in recent months amid safety concerns, and the Osborne Village Business Improvement Zone has previously told CBC News employers are worried about “escalating” violence in the neighbourhood.

Silver Lotus boutique owner Judy Coy set up shop in the village in the late 1980s and has been there ever since. A couple of years ago, she felt the need to install cameras at her store.

Coy, who also runs nearby Rooster Shoes, said that so far, the anti-theft initiative looks like it’s paying off.

“It seems to be giving people confidence,” she said. “We don’t feel we are left alone to our own devices.”

Late last year, city police launched a new strategy targeting retail theft hot spots — including downtown, Kildonan Crossing and Polo Park — amid a 44 per cent jump in shoplifting incidents in the preceding eight months compared to the same period in 2022.

Police said earlier this year they’d switched from “covert tactics” that primarily focused on arrests to a more visible presence aimed at deterring criminals.

Coy said she’s definitely noticed an increased police presence this past month.

“They come and visit maybe two or three times a week just to say hello, ask if there’s any dilemmas,” she said. “When we have had a theft, they were here right away. They advised us what to do. That was really helpful.”

‘It makes a difference’

Jill Peddle, who works at Silver Lotus and lives in the neighbourhood, said she too has noticed more police on the streets.

“There seems to kind of be less folks, maybe outwardly … doing drugs and stuff on the street,” she said. “The police aren’t being aggressive, they’re just sort of walking around kind of in case you need them.”

A person walking on a street
Osborne Village residents and business owners say they’ve been noticing more police in the neighbourhood, as the province extends funding for a new anti-theft program. (CBC)

Other residents told CBC News the latest initiative has been good for the neighbourhood.

“I’ve seen, you know, fights in the streets and that kind of thing,” said Grange Morrow, who has lived in Osborne Village for almost 20 years.

But “since they started bringing in the foot patrols and stuff, that’s kind of been eliminated, as far as I can see,” he said.

“They’re going up and they’re talking to people. And I’ve seen them in the stores, and I don’t know what it’s like from the standpoint of Safeway and that kind of thing, but I think it makes a difference.”

Minister Wiebe said that while it’s still in the early stages, there have been some “really encouraging” numbers coming out of the initiative, as well as positive feedback from businesses.

“There’s still a lot of activity that the [Winnipeg Police Service] are responding to, but we know that this kind of partnership has been successful,” he said.

“We want to continue this and we want to make sure that we’re keeping our communities safe into the summer.”

Winnipeg police said they will give an update on the initiative later this week.

WATCH | Retail theft initiative extended:

Manitoba extends funding for retail theft initiative

13 minutes ago

Duration 1:58

The provincial government and retailers say a program that gave Winnipeg police $387,000 to fight retail theft seems to be helping cut down on crime, and the province now says it’ll keep funding the initiative at least through July.