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Public perception of Winnipeg police on the decline: survey

A new survey finds the public’s overall perception of the Winnipeg Police Service continues to be on the decline, and fewer folks are feeling safe downtown, regardless of gender.

The data comes from a 2024 citizen’s survey by Public Research Associates and commissioned by the Winnipeg Police Board. The findings were presented at a meeting at city hall on Friday.

It polled 600 Winnipeggers by phone between Jan. 29 and Feb. 7.

Some of the key takeaways – there was an overall decline in perception of quality of police service in Winnipeg compared to the last time this survey was done two years ago.

In 2024, 14 per cent said they thought the quality of police was excellent, 40 per cent said good, 36 per cent said average, six per cent said poor and four per cent said very poor.

That’s a change from 2022, when 17 per cent said the overall quality of police was excellent, 39 per cent said good, 32 per cent said average, and nine per cent said poor.

Those 55 years old and up tended to be the most positive, with 71 per cent of that age group responding favourably.

There was also a decline in the number of people who believe Winnipeg police are meeting expectations. In 2024, 24 per cent say they were always or consistently meeting expectations, down from 30 per cent in 2022.

Meantime, there was a notable change in the perceptions of downtown safety.

While pollsters say it is very common for men to believe they are safer in public spaces than women, there has been a notable decline in both men and women in terms of their perceptions of safety during the daytime.

Fifty-seven per cent of male respondents in 2024 said they feel safe walking alone downtown during the day, which is down from 62 per cent in 2022.

The change is sharper among women. This year, 42 per cent of female respondents said they feel safe walking alone downtown during the day, which is down from 2022, when 49 per cent felt safe.

Fourteen per cent of men in 2024 answered they felt safe walking alone downtown during the nighttime, compared to five per cent of female respondents.

Both figures are down from 2022.

More people also said in 2024 they believe the problems in their neighbourhoods, such as theft and drug use, are extremely serious.

The poll had a margin of error plus or minus four per cent, 19 times out of 20.

High crime rates affecting perceptions of safety, police: smyth

Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth says current high rates of crime impact people’s perception of safety and the police force as a whole.

“Our homicide numbers have been double now for several years. It stands to reason that it’s going to have an impact, also depending on where they happen. We’ve had some pretty high-profile crimes occur in the downtown,” he said, mentioning stabbings in 2022 at the Millennium Library and last June after a downtown concert.

“Those kinds of things I think resonate with people, and I think you’re seeing a little bit of a reflection of that.”

Smyth says a relatively small number of people can cause the most amount of harm in a community, and they are often out on bail.

He says the rash of officer-involved deaths can also influence people’s perception of police.

“There is some uncertainty there. I think that factors in,” Smyth said, adding he looks forward to the findings from investigations into those deaths from Manitoba’s independent police watchdog, as he believes they will provide clarity to the public.

Winnipeg Police Board chair Markus Chambers says he wasn’t surprised by the poll’s findings that more folks feel unsafe downtown, even during the daytime.

He says more people are needed downtown to create the perception of safety, after the area was all but cleared out during the pandemic.

“Crime prevention through social design, where you have more people working in the downtown space – there’s going to be increased safety.”

– With files from CTV’s Jeff Keele

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