Progressive Conservatives offer $10 million to make downtown Winnipeg safer
Foot patrols, security cameras, lighting, preventing panhandling all on the table, PCs say
A re-elected Progressive Conservative government would spend $10 million to reduce crime in downtown Winnipeg through enforcement and studying best practices.
Leader Brian Pallister said Monday his government would crack down on drug use by committing more money to tactical enforcement, better collaboration between police services and trying to prevent drug smuggling through road surveillance.
The PCs also would establish a criminal intelligence database within the Justice Ministry and hire more investigators with the public safety investigations unit to expel drug dealers from rental properties.
"When grandpa and grandma take their grandchildren out to a Jets game, they shouldn't be worried when they leave the game about getting to the parkade safely," Pallister said Monday morning from True North Square.
Downtown 'needs to be safer'
"This is our real concern for downtown Winnipeg. It's a beautiful place, but it needs to be safer for the vast, vast majority of people who abide by our laws. They deserve to feel safe in their own hometown."
Pallister also repeated his pledge to give the Manitoba Police Commission the task of devising a strategy to improve safety within 60 days of the election.
He pointed to downtown Minneapolis as a success story that the police commission, headed by businessman David Asper, would try to emulate.
The group would analyze the use of downtown foot patrols, security cameras, improved lighting and shared communication systems between the police, private security and volunteer downtown patrols, Pallister said.
They also would crack down on panhandling through better enforcement of the laws that already exist, he said.
While city officials and the Winnipeg Police Service are already working on a number of initiatives to improve downtown safety, Pallister said the provincial government isn't overstepping its bounds.
"That's no disrespect to the City of Winnipeg or any other local government to say this is an issue of provincial concern that requires leadership," Pallister said.
"I think that the partnerships we've had on numerous other issues demonstrate we're sincere in working with local governments, and we'll continue to be."
Katharina Maier, an assistant professor in criminal justice at the University of Winnipeg, said tougher enforcement is a smart approach to reducing crime, but treatment programs and preventive efforts are also valuable.
She questioned if policing is the right response to panhandling.
"I think there's ample research that shows that policing against panhandling tends to alienate people, tends to displace problems rather than solve them," she said.
The Manitoba New Democrats say the Progressive Conservatives are trying to claim leadership when their inaction in dealing with the meth crisis has been criticized by the police and Winnipeg's health authority in an internal briefing note.
The NDP has promised to adopt the Main Street Project plan to address meth's hold on the city. New Democrats say they would expand the agency's services, hire additional staff and create an environment specialized to care for people on meth.
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