Winnipeg is a pretty fantastic place to be during the summer months. If you are like me, you love doing the hometown tourist thing, visiting some of our lovely restaurants, supporting local artisans and vendors at a favourite farmers market or attending one of the many festivals that draw the crowds. There is so much to see and do.
It’s easy to get swept up in the celebrations and community spirit.
We truly hope you enjoy yourself, especially after the limitations of COVID restrictions. But, we want to do so with your safety and security in mind.
The best advice we can offer to anyone out on the town is to be aware of your surroundings. It takes but a moment for a great outing to become an excellent opportunity for would-be thieves to spoil the vibe and ruin your adventure.
We ask that you consider these tips when out and about:
• Stay alert. Be aware. Enjoy yourself, but please know where you are and be mindful of those around you. Not everyone and everything is a threat but trust your instincts. If you feel unsafe in a situation or place, leave immediately.
• Put away distractions. Don’t display valuable items such as phones, headphones, laptops or even that book you can’t seem to put down. There have been too many instances where someone has been oblivious to what is happening around them because they have their nose buried in their phone or their headphones blocking out all the sounds around them while they tune in to that favourite podcast. The escapism is undoubtedly nice, but when you block out your surroundings, you make it easier for a would-be thief to sneak up, grab that device and leave you high and dry.
• Walk in groups of two or more. It’s great getting out on your own to explore but travelling in a group makes you less of a target and can provide the ability to make that 9-1-1 call should something untoward happen. Two sets of eyes aware of what happening around you is also more effective than one!
• Carry a personal alarm. What’s the last thing someone trying to harm you wants when carrying out a crime? Attention. A simple personal alarm attached to your keys or bag can draw that attention to your circumstance and cause the criminal to move away, so you have time to get to safety. They are not large. They are not intrusive, but they are loud when they are needed. But, they only work when you use them. Many people are unsure about using them but we would rather you use you alarm and not need it than to keep it in your pocket until it is too late!
• Plan a route and stick to it. Whether you are 15, 55 or 75 let someone know where you are going and your plan for getting there. Should you get lost or go missing, that gives us a better chance to find you. Familiarize yourself with the area you are in and where you are going.
• If you do find yourself having to walk alone, consider using a Safe WALK or Safe RIDE program. These supportive services are designed to safely assist you to your destination. Organizations such as the Downtown Community Safety Program/ Downtown BIZ, West End BIZ, Exchange District BIZ as well post-secondary education institutions (U of M, U of W, Red River Polytechnqiue) offer such services.
• Use populated paths when walking, jogging or cycling. Stay in well-lit areas and always walk confidently. If you think you are being followed, change direction and head for a populated area.
• Only carry what you need. Criminals associate purses and wallets with money and valuables. Do not carry a purse with a strap across you or wrapped around your wrist. Should you be approached for your belongings, please cooperate for your personal safety. Possessions can always be replaced.
• Be mindful of panhandlers. Should you encounter a panhandler, say no politely. Do not swear or be abusive. If you want to help someone on the street, consider giving your money to a local registered charity.
Does that seem like a scary list? It shouldn’t be. We’ve offered here simple but effective ways to lessen your risk of being victimized.
We’ve earned a summer of sun, fun and community. Help make it a safe and enjoyable one for all.
Should you ever be victimized, please know we are here to help. 9-1-1 is always your trusted lifeline to the emergency services you require.
James Ham is the Communications Coordinator for the Winnipeg Police Service.