Proposal calls for nearly $1M to be spent on lighting, cameras, patrols to improve downtown Winnipeg safety

Proposal calls for nearly $1M to be spent on lighting, cameras, patrols to improve downtown Winnipeg safety

The City of Winnipeg wants to spend nearly a million dollars to shine a light on downtown crime. 

City council’s inner circle will hear a proposal next week from a city committee for a multi-year strategy that would devote unspent cash from Winnipeg’s destination marketing reserve to improving downtown safety.

The proposal, which goes to executive policy committee on Wednesday, recommends more exterior lighting, more video surveillance and more foot patrols.

It follows a council directive late last year that a plan be devised for the unspent funds in the downtown marketing reserve, accumulated through hotel taxes. No new funding is required for the multi-year downtown safety strategy, the city said.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman believes the investment will make a difference.

Perceptions of safety

“There’s a number of things in there from lighting to increased foot patrol, things that I believe will make a big difference, not only in actual safety but perceptions of safety in our downtown,” he told reporters.

The proposal suggests earmarking $375,000 to expand the SafeWalk program by an additional six staff members through the Watch Ambassador and Exchange BIZ Patrol programs, with the potential for as many as 10 more people patrolling streets.

Nearly $300,000 would be spent on better architectural lighting to create a “more inviting and safe pedestrian environment.” The city is willing to match the cost of lighting on privately owned buildings, up to $10,000 for each side of the building.

The public service would allocate up to $150,000 to evaluate the need for a Community Safety Centre of Responsibility, a municipally administered body tasked with promoting crime prevention. The concept is already in place in many Canadian cities, including Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton.

The recommendations also include an additional $150,000 set aside to modernize and expand the police service’s video surveillance program, while incorporating the use of existing private cameras “where appropriate and lawful.”

Bowman, a former privacy lawyer, said Thursday he believes the practice is consistent with existing privacy laws.

The plan also calls for use of new cellphone software to improve communication between police and security and outreach workers, at the cost of $24,000 for the first year.

These recommendations are the first phase of a planned safety strategy for downtown, city administration says.

The proposal must still be approved by the executive policy committee and city council.

The report indicates the bus shelter at Portage Place Shopping Centre, which has been identified by police as a magnet for crime, remains in limbo.

The city is talking with the mall and Winnipeg Transit about options for the shelter.

Published at Thu, 05 Jul 2018 15:21:22 -0400