Low turnout at Winnipeg police’s safety seminar

Courtney Bannatyne, CONTRIBUTOR

Const. Tony Wong came to the Roblin Centre on Feb. 14 to teach staff and students about personal
safety in the Exchange District. THE PROJECTOR/ Courtney Bannatyne

Const. Tony Wong stood at the front of the room in P-107, awaiting Red River College staff and students to teach them about personal safety in the Exchange District.

Throughout the two-hour safety session, around five people showed up — mostly faculty and one campus security guard.

“Maybe students don’t care anymore because we already caught the guy,” Wong said about the suspect of recent stabbings in the area.

After Jesse Nedohin’s arrest on Jan. 31 for his alleged connection to multiple stabbings in the Exchange District—two involving RRC students—Winnipeg police and the college have teamed up to provide personal safety seminars.

“I’m not going to teach them karate or anything,” he said. “Prevention — that’s the best way not to be involved in a dangerous situation.”

Wong said before the presentation, he walked around the Roblin Centre to look for the building’s vulnerabilities.

“As far as public places go, it’s very, very tough to make this absolutely secure,” he said. “So I’m going to make some suggestions to students and staff about some initiatives they can do to make themselves feel safer.”

Jonathan Bailey, an instructor in the accounting and computer education program, said he’s concerned about campus security at night.

“With the recent attack, it’s concerning,” he said. “About six o’clock at night, downtown changes its character, and I don’t want to meet some interesting person in a hallway at 9:30 at night.”

Bailey said he thinks the police moving its headquarters out of the Public Safety Building could have something to do with increased crime in the Exchange District.

“Is that perception? Is that reality?” he asked. “But it seems a little different down here now.”

Two or three more people filtered into the presentation room.

“I’m the only person here,” Bailey said. “Oh, now we’re two,” he said as Dayna Graham sat down beside him.

Graham works at the Roblin Centre as an adult learning facilitator. She attended the seminar to learn two things, she said. One of those things was to learn how to react if she saw an incident and wanted to help.

“Like I want to get in there, but that’s probably not the best method,” she said.

The other thing she said she wants to learn is self-defence. Graham has a 15-minute walk from the building to her car, and she said she wants to know what to do if she’s by herself without access to her phone.

“What happens when you’re grabbed?” she said. “Like, what do you do?”

Wong said it’s important to make people rethink their everyday surroundings.

“When we’re coming to school we already know our routine — that’s how it’s going to play out in our head,” he said. “So when something surprises you, you’re absolutely unprepared for it.”

The constable gave tips about dealing with panhandlers, gang members and people sleeping in bus shelters.

One of the more controversial topics during presentations, according to Wong, is what to do when someone is robbed.

“I tell people, ‘If you’re being robbed, just cooperate,’ and everybody jumps from their chairs like, ‘What? What are you talking about?’” Wong said. “It’s because your life is more important than anything you could carry on you in that moment.”

Wong said to give up what you have if you’re being robbed and to let the person move on.

“Just prevent hurting yourself,” he said. “No matter how good of a fighter you are, you’re never going to be 100 per cent sure that you can win.”

Wong said people should stay away from wearing purses — to opt for backpacks instead. He also suggested that people only bring the amount of money they need for the day in the form of a debit card. Cash is the worst thing someone who wants to avoid being robbed could have, he said.

Another seminar was conducted on Feb. 21, and RRC is coordinating with Winnipeg police to have more sessions in the spring, according to RRC’s blog.