Feeling safe is a basic human need second only to food, water and shelter. This is according to Maslow’s hierachy of needs.
However, unlike food, water and shelter, safety is a concept. Jacques Demers, Sheldon Kennedy and Theo Fleury all say the only place they felt safe was on the ice at the hockey rink. The rest of their lives were in chaos.
Fortunately, most of us do not have that experience. Still, many feel going downtown is unsafe, chaotic and to be avoided.
Sometimes a person just has to go to a hockey game, a concert or the symphony to elicit this feeling. The question is, How can we reduce the stress and increase our safety and the enjoyment of that event?
To extend the hockey reference, most of the time a player makes it to the bench after his shift. It takes only a second of looking down instead of being aware of the other player and boom! you are semi conscious on the ice and out of the game indefinitely.
We hope for an enjoyable experience but maybe planning for something else will prevent disaster.
The City and the businesses downtown are working hard at creating a safe and fun time for people when they come to events.
There are three layers of security that are available in the downtown. They are the BIZ Patrols – one for the downtown and one for the Exchange District; the Cadets; and the City of Winnipeg Police Service.
Derek Manaigre, operations manager of the Exchange District Biz Patrol, is focused on the big picture, having a visible presence that helps deter crime.
Both BIZ patrols – downtown and Exchange – are foot patrols and work in pairs. They are very approachable and help people with a range of issues from giving directions to helping to navigate the parking metres to calling an ambulance if someone appears unwell.
Another service the patrols provide are safety walks. Most of the year Winnipeg is in the dark after hours and in the middle of winter after work as well. A call to the Biz Patrol about a half hour before you need it will provide a safety walk to your vehicle, bus stop, or wait with you until a taxi arrives to make sure you are safely on your way home. They do up to 15 safe walks per month.
Exchange BIZ safe walk 204-791-3161 (8 a.m. – midnight)
Downtown BIZ safe walk 204-958-7233 (8:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.)
Ryan Kapelica. a member of the Exchange foot patrol gives a few tips for the public to be aware of when coming to the area for an event.
- Have an entrance and exit plan. Orient yourself before you enter the building. Sound and lights at a concert can disorient a person upon leaving.
- Be aware of your surroundings. That means rely on your senses. You can’t hear if you have ear buds on and you can’t see if you are on your device. He recommends putting electronics in your pocket for the few minutes it takes to get to your vehicle or bus or taxi.
- Trust your instincts.
- The buddy system works. People have been using the buddy system since they were in kindergarten; it worked then and it works now. In case you are separated, arrange a time and place to meet your “buddy”.
- If possible, don’t bring a purse but if you must, a cross-body strap is the best deterrent to thieves.
- Don’t be afraid to call for a safe walk. All authorities say that it is better to be safe than sorry. It is not shameful or wimpy to be safe.
The Cadets are a city wide service and are often used by the police as an addition when there is a traffic accident or where there aren’t foot patrols.
The City of Winnipeg Police Service is embarking on a new venture for the downtown area. Constable Rejeanne Caron, Downtown Safety Coordinator for the Winnipeg Police Service, describes it as a proactive initiative.
She says police will be involved in a coordinated effort to look at issues expressed by the community. Individual police members will be dedicated to specific geographic areas.
Hopefully there will be time on their shifts to walk around the neighbourhoods, have coffee with the public and develop positive relationships with businesses and community members.
The idea is that more eyes on the street makes a safer community. As well, a positive relationship will garner better communication between police and community, allowing residents to be able to better take ownership of their neighbourhoods.
Another aspect of downtown safety concerns keeping your vehicle safe and less likely to be vandalized or stolen. The following Winnipeg Police Service video gives some excellent information in this regard, and introduces Constable Caron.
On a personal note, I live in the East Exchange and in the three years I have lived here the residential development has boomed. The City has created neighbourhoods and as such we have an interest in community safety.