Manitoba Government Making Downtown Winnipeg Streets Safer with Significant Investment
The Manitoba government is taking action to address unacceptable escalating rates of violent crime in downtown Winnipeg and ensure the safety of its residents. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the government is making a significant investment of over $10 million over two years in downtown Winnipeg safety measures to enhance public safety and foster a secure environment for all those living, working and visiting downtown Winnipeg, Premier Heather Stefanson and Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen announced today.
“Manitobans have the right to feel safe in their homes and their communities,” said Stefanson. “With this investment of over $10 million, we are giving front-line police officers the resources they need to make our streets safer. Our government will always defend — not defund — the police.”
The Winnipeg Police Service’s annual statistical report, released on May 30, revealed a concerning 25.6 per cent increase in total crime compared to the previous year and a 17.0 per cent increase over the five-year average, the premier noted. Violent crime specifically rose by 19.2 per cent, with the Violent Crime Severity Index reaching its highest level (207.8) since 2009. Knife-related crimes increased by 11.7 per cent compared to 2021, and the use of bear spray in violent crimes has doubled since 2019. Moreover, youth crime increased by 43.4 per cent over the previous year, although it remains 13.7 per cent below the five-year average.
“We recognize the pressing need to address the concerning trends of rising crime rates in downtown Winnipeg,” said Goertzen. “Included in the record investment of $52 million in funding in the Violent Crime Strategy, this $10 million specifically towards crime and safety initiatives in downtown Winnipeg will enable us to implement with our partners proactive measures and comprehensive programs aimed at creating a safer environment.”
“Downtown Winnipeg is recovering. Safety and security in public spaces is paramount to that recovery. The Winnipeg Police Service has a significant role in the delivery of services that ensures the safety of all who live and work downtown, and those who visit the Sports, Hospitality and Entertainment District for leisure and entertainment,” said Chief Danny Smyth, Winnipeg Police Service. “I want to thank the Manitoba government for the opportunity to enhance our partnership with the Downtown Community Safety Partnership. Together we can deliver a more co-ordinated and comprehensive service that ensures the right resources are deployed at the right time.”
The Manitoba Downtown Winnipeg Crime and Safety Package, encompasses several key components:
- The Manitoba government is providing additional resources to enhance community safety and well-being and collaboration between the Downtown Community Safety Partnership (DCSP) and WPS. This collaboration will involve the deployment of 24 new police officers dedicated to proactive downtown safety measures.
- Expanded CCTV network and enhanced lighting: To enhance safety measures in the downtown area, the Manitoba government will invest in 75 additional closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras. Furthermore, enhanced lighting will be installed, aligning with crime prevention by environmental design principles. These efforts aim to create a more secure and well-illuminated environment for downtown residents, workers, and visitors.
- Centralized community safety office: the Manitoba government will establish a centralized community safety office, which will serve as a hub for crime prevention initiatives. This office will support various programs and activities aimed at fostering a safer and more welcoming downtown environment.
- Funding for all purpose vehicles for the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) to support proactive responses to incidents in the downtown area. The use of motorized and non-motorized vehicles will enhance the agility and effectiveness of law enforcement officers in addressing safety concerns swiftly.
- Integrated DSCP/WPS Co-ordinated Assistance Network: The DCSP will utilize security cameras from a centralized space being funded by the Manitoba government that will enable co-ordinated dispatch, foot patrols, and response teams.
“Revitalizing our downtown begins with rebuilding confidence among those who live, work, and shop in the area, and today’s announcement will be a significant step towards that,” said Mayor Scott Gillingham, City of Winnipeg. “Building a stronger partnership between police, DCSP, and other agencies is an important part of a multipronged strategy that includes housing, transit, recreation, greenspace, and small business. Our vision is to foster a thriving downtown community that is filled with people day and night.”
The DSCP is a locally developed initiative focused on providing 24-7 support, non-emergency responses, and prevention and outreach programs that aim for long-term solutions. By implementing a proactive downtown presence and delivering comprehensive care, this partnership seeks to bring about significant positive change for individuals and the broader downtown community.
“The DCSP is very appreciative of this funding commitment towards enhancing the health, safety and wellbeing of our downtown community,” said Greg Burnett, executive director, Downtown Community Safety Partnership. “This investment will allow for the continued expansion of our services and collaboration with our partner agencies, particularly to ensure we are able to get needed assistance and resources to people at the right time.”
Goertzen noted an increase in overall public safety basket funding will also support higher municipal policing costs. This investment builds on the Manitoba government’s response to rising crime rates. As chair of the Council of the Federation, Premier Stefanson has led the charge to demand the federal government reform bail for violent offenders.
The Manitoba Violent Crime Strategy, supported with $52 million from Budget 2023, is working to keep Manitoba streets safe through funding for strengthening intensive bail and supervision for serious violent offenders, increasing Manitoba Prosecution Service capacity to address violent crime and supporting a Manitoba Integrated Missing Persons Response and Child Abuse Response. This comprehensive approach demonstrates the Manitoba government's commitment to creating a safer environment for all Manitobans.