An announcement from the Government of Manitoba shows we could see a new form of enforcement in the City and the RM of Portage la Prairie, as well as other municipalities across the province.

Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen, City of Portage Mayor Sharilyn Knox, and President of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities Kam Blight were on hand, as was MLA for Portage Ian Wishart, to discuss the possibility of bringing Community Safety Officers, or CSOs, into rural Manitoba.

While there has already been discussion regarding CSOs in Winnipeg for their transit system, Goertzen says he has heard a lot about enforcement on the Highway Traffic Act in rural municipalities.

"The ability to prescribe specific enforcement abilities to CSOs will tailor it to the different municipalities and then the training has to be tailored to that, as well," says Goertzen. "If you're going to give people the power of arrest, as an example, you have to ensure they have the proper training."

Goertzen notes this is something they have been thinking about for quite some time and will continue to contemplate. The municipalities will come forward to the province explaining what they would need a CSO to take care of. The Department of Juctice would look at the request and act accordingly. 

"That training program is well underway. We've got great people that are working on that. We have great training facilities already in the province of Manitoba who will be engaged in that. So, the CSOs will look like the way the municipalities need them to look like."

Mayor Knox says this is a program the City can get behind.

"We've been looking at this for a while," says Knox. "The CSOs just bring another level of crime reduction and prevention and enforcement."

She believes the introduction of CSOs in the community would alleviate some resources that are being put on the RCMP, and help with many of the issues seen in certain parts of the city.

"We'd love to see community safety officers in our downtown area patrolling our streets, visiting our business owners, having a presence," says Knox. "Sometimes just that in itself, alleviates some of the issues of crime."