St. Boniface Street Links recruiting more bike patrols for this summer

A bike patrol program with St. Boniface Street Links in Winnipeg is expanding because of an increase in neighbourhood crime and the meth epidemic.

Non-profit organization teaming up with Norwood Grove BIZ to patrol neighbourhood

Bike patrol volunteers check St. Boniface streets in Winnipeg. (Submitted by Marion Willis)

There will be more bike patrols with St. Boniface Street Links on the road this summer.

The non-profit organization, which aims to end homelessness, poverty and fight crime, is actively recruiting new volunteer cyclists.

Last year, its foot patrols combed back lanes and riverbanks to find drug paraphernalia under bridges, needles along paths and abandoned stolen bikes. A decision was made to cover the area differently this summer.

"Now, we are beginning to address the challenges associated with the meth epidemic and trying to create a better ambience of safety," said Marion Willis, head of St. Boniface Street Links.

"There has been an increase in residential crimes, commercial crimes, panhandling and stolen property and so on. So we decided we all needed to team up. We are working with the Norwood Grove BIZ. We have purchased more bikes, and we are about to start a major recruitment," said Willis. 

Street Links currently has about 18 bike patrols. Willis hopes to recruit another 30-40 new riders.

"So we can provide seven days a week coverage to a much expanded area of St. Boniface. We will be working with people panhandling to understand why they are there and try to find some alternatives," said Willis.

The patrols will be working with local businesses to find out what their concerns are. They will also get help from the Winnipeg Police Service in addressing some of the issues they find on the street.

Willis says the riders will have a new name this year. They will no longer be known as St. Boniface Street Links Bike Patrol volunteers. Instead, they will be called the St. Boniface Street Links Ambassadors. 

A 'desirable place to be'

"We want it to be something a little more positive. We want anyone to be able to stop us and not be afraid," she said, referring to tourists. "So it's more than public safety. It's making St. Boniface a pleasant and desirable place to be for those who work, live and play in the area." 

Willis wants to recruit some of the new cyclists from the nearby St. Boniface College. Riders have to be over 18 and have a cellphone. If they have their own bike, that's an asset. New recruits will receive training. 

Riders will travel in groups of three with one person having specialized training. 

"Dominion Square near the foot of the St. Mary's Road bridge is a high-risk area. There will be a staff person on that ride that will reach out to the population there," Willis said.

Anyone interesting in being an ambassador is asked to call St. Boniface Street Links at 204-615-5557.