By Fakiha Baig in Edmonton
City Council voted unanimously to call on the Government of Alberta to support the creation of a hub in Edmonton’s Chinatown where social workers, firefighters and law enforcement officers could work together to reduce criminality.
The city administration submitted a report to council on Monday outlining the proposed Healthy Streets operations center.
David Jones, who is with the city and presented the report, told councilors it would not be a traditional police station.
“People who will see the benefits include Chinatown residents and businesses, but also people who are on the streets, who are vulnerable and who fall prey to certain criminal elements,” Jones said.
The establishment of the center is one of many actions the city has pledged to address a spike in violent crime downtown in nearby Chinatown. and on the public transport system.
Edmonton police have already increased their presence in problem areas.
In May, Justice Minister Tyler Shandro used his ministerial power to demand a report from the city on what is being done to get crime under control.
Mayor Amarjeet Sohi told Monday’s council meeting that the city had implemented its plan for the center and now was the time for the province to step in.
“Edmonton has the lowest per capita funding to support ending homelessness compared to seven other cities (in Alberta). I think it’s really important that we ask people whose inaction has caused harm to the community to step in,” Sohi said.
“Most of the violence in Chinatown is related to homelessness…and addictions which cause great harm to the community and to individuals. We’re asking the city’s taxpayers to pick up the pieces or pay for the consequences of the lack of investment in health care and the lack of investment in housing.
Sohi added that he felt the province wanted to help.
The provincial government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The report says the center will operate seven days a week, 21 hours a week, and could cost up to $18.1 million over the next four years.
The city and the Edmonton Police Department may partially support the center, and Jones said various companies in Chinatown have also offered to provide a building for the center. free of charge.
But the council voted to ask the provincial government to determine how it can provide mental health, housing and shelter support.
Sohi said he plans to engage with the province and will report to council on August 15.
Jones said to have the center up and running by next summer, the city aims to hire four peace officer sergeants, 16 community peace officers, two community safety liaison officers and three firefighters or constables. fire prevention.
The report says community members have called for increased security in problem areas and that building a center in “hot spots” can effectively reduce crime. The research cited in the report also showed that it will not displace violence to other areas.
“Studies have consistently found no noticeable displacement and, in some cases, a diffusion effect, meaning hotspot policing also reduces crime in areas adjacent to hotspots.”
Dr. Temitope Oriola, professor of criminology at the University of Alberta, said the hub model has been around for at least a decade in Canada and the center is a good start.
“The real test is to make sure it’s not too heavily police oriented and dependent on them,” he said in an email.
“The approach must have law enforcement as one of many essentials with people, community revitalization and personalized social services at the epicenter.”
Oriola added that the center would be more effective in reducing crime if it worked with other city initiatives that address issues of substance abuse and homelessness.
“The jobs created should also focus on those most directly connected to Chinatown,” he said.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 4, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.