Bear Clan, BIZ groups and Take Pride get cash for foot patrols, graffiti cleanup

Flanked by members of the Bear Clan, several foot patrols and local politicians, Mayor Brian Bowman announced funding for several groups to help them continue their good work.

Winnipeg Police Association calls new funding 'window dressing'

James Favel of the Bear Clan thanks the city for funding Tuesday. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Flanked by members of the Bear Clan, several foot patrols and local politicians, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman announced funding for several groups to help them continue their good work.

The Bear Clan will get about $13,500 to buy radios, cellphones and an automated external defibrillator, with the hope they can expand their patrol into West End streets.

The downtown, West End and Exchange District BIZ foot patrols will get $30,000 each to expand, and Take Pride Winnipeg will get $90,000 to continue to remove graffiti and garbage and run their Snow Angels program.

"This is why I'm glad the 2018 city budget, adopted by council in December, recommends the development of a multi-year downtown public safety strategy," Bowman said. 

"The public service has been tasked with preparing and bringing forth a report later this spring outlining a strategy that includes enhanced outreach services, expanded foot patrols and other security initiatives that will build upon the support we're providing today."

Mayor Brian Bowman announces funding for the Bear Clan, three foot patrols and Take Pride Winnipeg on Tuesday. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

James Favel of the Bear Clan said the money will help the group's continued expansion.

"When we first started out, we were 12 members sitting around a boardroom table on Selkirk Avenue, in one community, just operating in Dufferin. Now we're in 24 communities in 12 cities in five provinces with 950 Winnipeg-based volunteers," he said.

"That growth didn't come out of nowhere, and it isn't free, so it does take some investment and I'm thankful to receive those kinds of, you know, bonuses here today.

"I really just want to contribute and work towards a culture of safety in the downtown."

Window dressing: WPA

However, the Winnipeg Police Association called the announcement Tuesday "pre-election window dressing."

"We all respect the efforts of the various public safety and awareness programs undertaken by organizations like Take Pride Winnipeg and the different BIZ organizations," said Maurice Sabourin, president of the police union, "they provide great 'eyes and ears' in the community, but when they need assistance, they call our members, and we can't provide that assistance if our members are too pressed by other calls due to a lack of resources.

"While there always seems to be money for pet projects like opening up Portage and Main or Wi-Fi on buses, the WPS is forced to contend with a fixation on the rate of inflation. That sort of pre-election posturing will not keep Winnipeg families safe, downtown or anywhere else."

Downtown Winnipeg BIZ board chair Diana Wiesenthal speaks in front of several BIZ patrol members Tuesday. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

"Crime knows no boundaries, and safety is everybody's business," said Gloria Cardwell-Hoeppner, executive director of the West End BIZ. "With this investment, we can continue to address safety concerns in our neighbourhoods."

This is the first time the West End BIZ patrol has received funding from the city, she said. 

"What's really important is the mayor has recognized the value of these patrol programs and the unique role that they play."

"The residents and the visitors to the area value the patrols as a knowledgeable resource and a comforting presence in the area, and those patrols can now be expanded with that kind of support.

"We're looking to immediately hire four to six patrols," she said, adding the job postings went up immediately.

Mayor Brian Bowman handed out close to 200 thousand dollars this morning. That money from his civic initiatives fund will go towards making downtown safer. 1:50

"The watch ambassadors continue to be an iconic part of our downtown and have been helping our communities for over 20 years," said Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone board chair Diana Wiesenthal. 

"Our ambassadors know the downtown inside and out and have logged 20,000 hours patrolling the downtown annually, so that's quite a lot of foot power when you think about it."

Thousands of volunteers help Take Pride Winnipeg tidy city streets and take down graffiti every year, said executive director Tom Ethans. 

"With the continued support from the City of Winnipeg, we'll continue to make Winnipeg and Manitoba clean and beautiful."