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Garry Street in downtown Winnipeg is pictured on Oct. 1, 2019.

WINNIPEG -- The Manitoba Police Commission wants your advice on ways to make downtown Winnipeg safer after it was asked by the provincial government to examine the issue. But one expert said any strategy needs to include help for those most at risk of criminal victimization.

Justice Minister Cliff Cullen has directed the police commission to consult stakeholders and make recommendations on ways the government, “can help to make downtown Winnipeg a safer place for Manitoba families.”

In a Sept. 18 news release, Cullen noted Winnipeg Police Service data shows violent crime downtown increased 10 per cent last year, property crime was up 22 per cent and that a Winnipeg Police Service survey from 2017 showed 84 per cent of Winnipeggers would feel unsafe walking downtown alone at night.

The police commission is asking the following question:

“What is the one piece of advice you would give to the Manitoba Police Commission that will help them with their recommendations to make downtown Winnipeg safer?”

Manitoba Police Commission executive director Andrew Minor said while a lot of work is being done by private and government stakeholders, it’s also important to get feedback from the public.

“The public are really the largest stakeholder,” said Minor. “We’re very interested, eager to hear from the public relative to their good ideas and common-sense approaches, that may assist us in moving forward with a greater strategy or a more effective means in making the downtown safer.”

Cullen has asked the commission to look into measures such as increased foot patrols, security cameras and increased lighting.

He’s previously said the government has other strategies targeting education and treatment for people living with addictions.

Bronwyn Dobchuk-Land, an assistant professor in the criminal justice department at the University of Winnipeg, said safety strategies are often aimed at making people who work and shop in areas affected by crime feel safer and more comfortable but often don’t address issues facing those most at risk of becoming a victim of crime.

“We know that the people who are most at risk of criminal victimization downtown and anywhere are people who are homeless, people who are forced to use drugs in public who don’t have access to private spaces – the very people who are being constructed as threats in the context of these downtown safety strategies are the ones who are actually most at risk of being victimized,” said Dobchuk-Land. “In many cases, it makes their lives less safe, more dangerous. It forces them into darker corners.”

She suggested more stable housing options, addictions treatment facilities and safe consumption sites would have a larger impact.

“Instead we see the police commission being asked to lead the charge in downtown safety, which already tells us a lot about what the orientation of that strategy is going to be,” said Dobchuk-Land.

Minor said the police commission is interested in any and all comments to ensure its recommendations are fulsome.

You can submit your answers to the question on the Manitoba Police Commission website.

Or, you can submit in writing by sending your response to:

The Manitoba Police Commission

ATTN: DOWNTOWN SAFETY

1802-155 Carlton St.

Winnipeg, MB R3C 3H8

An initial report on the topic is due by Nov. 17.