At this time of year, it’s important to celebrate the workers whose duties take them outside, and who put aside their own comfort and safety.
For the members of the Exchange Patrol, they do this in order to potentially offset the risks for others.
“When it’s cold, there’s not as much to do, but when there is something to do, it’s so important,” says Derek Manaigre, Operations Manager for the Exchange District BIZ. “If anyone falls or slips and bumps their head, it’s super emergent in about a minute or two.”
The Exchange Patrol has been a core offering provided by the BIZ since 2010. Prior to then, there was a volunteer-run service, but the BIZ established its first full-time patrol staff that year.
Since then, the crew has evolved to a roster of eight full-time staffers, each trained in mediation, conflict resolution, and first aid.
“Safe has always been an easy sell,” Manaigre says of the program he oversees. “We’ve just been building, building, building. The more we’re out there, the more people want us out there.”
What the Exchange Patrol does
“We’re the eyes and ears for our membership and for the police,” Manaigre says. “We do regular check-ins, asking members, ‘Have you seen anything? Any concerns?’
“It’s not just pure safety, it’s also visibility. We work on good things too. We help people find their cars and get to where they’re going to – that’s at least half of our job.”
As the ground-level representatives of the area, patrol staff proudly guide residents and visitors to wherever they’re looking to take their patronage, while also providing services to those with nowhere to go.
“For street people who are having a tough day, we’re there as soon as possible to help them,” Manaigre says. “We will be the first people onsite. Let’s face it, most people walk right past. We make sure to get them somewhere else, somewhere better.”
Many times, this means directing people to Main Street Project, as it is the only shelter without specific criteria for granting admission concerning sobriety.
Recently, Main Street Project opened a 24-hour warming centre, which the Exchange Patrol has been orienting people to.
One of the essential roles of the Patrol is to accompany anyone who requests a safe walk from an Exchange District venue to their destination, whether it’s their car, bus or any other circumstance that makes them feel wary.
“We have three or four (safe walks) a day right now,” Manaigre says. “Some are scheduled for a set time every single day – no matter what, we’re going. Other people organize it as they need.”
Some area residents or employees may be surprised to know they can schedule a recurring appointment, where a member of the Exchange Patrol will escort you to your vehicle or destination in the Exchange each day. Pre-schedule your own safe walk, or order on-the-go by calling 204-791-3161.
Safe walks can be arranged during Patrol hours: Monday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday to Friday 8 a.m. to midnight and Saturday from 4 p.m. to midnight.
Since 2011, Winnipeg Police Service statistics show a 44 per cent decrease in crime downtown, even higher than the city’s average. This is likely due in part to our ground-level representatives mitigating all concerns regarding safety, panhandling, or any unusual or nuisance behaviour – and attending to them on-foot, as quickly as they can.
Thanks to our partners who help fund the Patrol: Winnipeg Parking Authority, Manitoba Centennial Centre Corporation, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre MTC, Harvard Property Management Inc., ArtSpace, Red River College, Impark, Centre Venture Development Corporation & MPN Holdings.
For more information on our Patrol service, visit exchangedistrict.org/exchange-patrol/ or call us at 204-791-3161.