Portage Place would like to tear down bus shack that police chief calls a 'hot spot' for downtown crime
'I don't think a week goes by where we don't have some kind of criminal incident' at shelter, says Danny Smyth
The heated bus shelter at Portage Place is a "hot spot" of crime downtown, says Winnipeg's police chief, and the mall's general manager says they'd like to get rid of it.
Chief Danny Smyth told the crowd at a downtown safety summit Monday that crimes are committed in or near the shopping centre's bus shack on Portage Avenue on a regular basis.
"[The shelter] made sense at the time in '86 when they built [Portage Place]. It kind of is a conduit right into the mall," said Smyth.
"But it's proven to be a very big challenge for anyone that has to use it or anyone that's trying to manage it, whether it's the security people of Portage Place or the police."
Simply put, the shelter is no longer a good idea, said Smyth.
"I don't think a week goes by where we don't have some kind of criminal incident, whether it's an assault or a robbery, and this [bus shelter] is the common denominator," he said at the safety summit.
"We'll certainly look at opportunities to make some changes to this [shelter]."
There have been several high-profile incidents in the shelter in recent years, including a random attack on a 17-year-old international student in January.
In video released by the police, the attacker waits until all others leave the bus shelter before lunging at the teen and beating him until the victim couldn't move.
A man has been arrested and charged in connection with the attack.
Mall wants shelter gone
The mall is in full support of removing the shelter, said Portage Place general manager Dave Stone, owing to "several incidents" that have happened there.
"The design and location of the current bus shelter also causes issues for pedestrian traffic as a result of the shelter design protruding into the sidewalk area" on Portage Avenue, Stone said in a statement.
"The removal of the bus shelter will most certainly aid in the safety of both transit patrons and the general public moving along the sidewalks along Portage Avenue."
The shelter certainly attracts crime, said Stefano Grande, CEO of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, adding he's hopeful that with the police chief pushing for change, the city, the mall and Winnipeg Transit can find a solution.
"The people that use the bus stop don't go inside, even if it's cold," said Grande.
"We know when bus shelters are designed properly and they're used, they're not magnets for crime."
Grande said he'd like to see the shelter replaced with a design similar to the bus shelter in front of Bell MTS Place, further down Portage Avenue.
The shelter at the arena features taller transparent glass windows — as opposed to the tinted windows around the Portage Place shelter — that surround the entire shelter, and a tall ceiling that lets in plenty of light.
A spokesperson for Winnipeg Transit said the safety of its passengers and drivers is a top priority.
"We are aware of the challenges … and are actively working on a solution in collaboration with the Winnipeg Police Service, the Downtown BIZ, Portage Place management, as well as other city departments," the spokesperson said.