Safe Walk Program sees an increase in use after instructor attack
By Hannah Owczar
Red River College has ramped up security measures in the wake of a violent attack on a college instructor earlier this month.
Two weeks ago, a 42-year-old man was stabbed while walking in the area of William Avenue and King Street outside the former Public Safety Building around 9:30 p.m. The attack is being investigated as an attempted murder.
In response to the attack, Red River College has increased security measures at the downtown campus.
The college announced a new mobile street patrol unit that will operate between 4 p.m. and midnight daily. The mobile street patrol has access to a vehicle and can either meet people at a location or escort to a location. Security hours were also extended on campus.
Safe Walk Patrol, a program providing security escorting for students, staff and visitors to locations in close proximity to campus, has seen a rise in use.
“I think it [use] was doubled. I think people are trying to be more cautious,” said Red River College security officer, Oleksandr Bokov. “The attack that happened was kind of spontaneous. I think they wouldn’t have attacked a group of people.”
Bokov said he’s usually the person working the Safe Walk Patrol program in the evening at the Exchange District Campus. He said taking advantage of the service is a good way to improve safety.
However, Red River College students at the downtown campus said they don’t feel any more at risk for their safety than before the attack.
Emma Lytle, 25, is a Graphic Design student. Due to the nature of her program, Lytle said she often stays late at school.
“I feel kind of the same as before [the attack], I feel like that kind of thing can happen anywhere and at any time, I’m always trying to be aware of it and it’s always in the back of my mind,” she said. “I’m not scared because I don’t think I can afford to be. I stay late working by myself, and I’m walking to the bus stop by myself. I don’t have any other options.”
Lytle said she feels most uneasy walking alone downtown knowing she’s carrying expensive equipment. She said she appreciates that the school is offering more safety options for students.
Students are not the only ones feeling uneasy downtown. According to a 2014 Probe Research survey conducted by the Winnipeg Free Press and CTV Winnipeg, 58 per cent of citizens said they do not feel safe walking in downtown Winnipeg after sunset.
Women said they felt especially vulnerable with almost 50 per cent strongly disagreeing that they feel safe after dark.
In January, Mayor Brian Bowman announced spending of $193,000 to improve downtown safety, this included graffiti removal and expanding foot patrol and Bear Clan Patrol efforts.
According to CrimeStat data between January 2018 and Oct. 22, 2018, sexual assaults in the Point Douglas area, which includes the Exchange District, increased by five per cent. However, shootings and homicides decreased. This year there have been nine reports of shootings, down from 13 last year.
To access Safe Walk Patrol and the mobile street patrol call 204-632-2555.