Provincial pilot to add 12 sheriffs to downtown Calgary

Alberta Public Safety Secretary Mike Ellis says a more visible presence for officers will help deter crime in downtown Calgary.  (Janet French/CBC - photo credit)

Alberta Public Safety Secretary Mike Ellis says a more visible presence for officers will help deter crime in downtown Calgary. (Janet French/CBC – photo credit)

There will be an increased law enforcement presence in downtown Calgary over the next several months.

On Tuesday, the provincial government announced a 12-week pilot in which they will send a dozen Alberta sheriffs to downtown Calgary.

It is part of an initiative created in partnership with the Calgary Police Service. The sheriffs are tasked with helping prevent crime and respond to increasing levels of social disorder in the downtown area, officials said.

“This initiative increases public safety by putting more eyes and ears into the neighborhoods where they’re needed and creating a more visible presence for officers that will help deter crime while connecting vulnerable Albertans with the support they need.” need,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Emergency Services Mike Ellis.

The program begins on February 27th and runs through May 31st.

The 12 sheriffs will work alongside existing CPS beat and bike teams. Data identifying crime and social unrest hotspots is used to place sheriffs.

“Through many conversations with Calgarians and the business community, we have clearly heard the need to take further public safety measures,” Mayor Jyoti Gondek said in a statement.

“These additional resources will help connect people to the services they need and create a safer, more supportive environment for all.”

After the program ends in late May, law enforcement officials will evaluate the project before deciding next steps.

More needs to be done: resistance

NDP Municipal Affairs critic Joe Ceci says the program will do nothing to affect the underlying issues that are causing clutter in downtown Calgary.

“While an increased law enforcement presence will help in some situations, it does not address the root causes of the challenges our city faces,” he said.

Ceci noted that Calgary’s downtown core continues to struggle with high vacancy rates, security concerns and a perceived lack of vibrancy.

“The UCP has offered next to nothing to help revitalize downtown Calgary,” he said. “In fact, they have made a bad situation worse by passing the cost onto municipalities while refusing to build affordable housing or fund support housing.”

Ceci previously served as an alderman on the Calgary City Council.

No long-term solution, says the neighborhood association

Despite mounting security concerns in downtown Calgary, Peter Oliver doesn’t think additional law enforcement will address people’s problems.

He’s with the Beltline Neighborhoods Association and sees the issues in the area firsthand — like lack of access for people with mental illness and addictions, and housing affordability.

The addition of sheriffs, he said, only masks the problem for those traveling in and out of downtown.

“What we usually see with that is that the problem is basically just swept around the corner, shoved into the alley and just shoved out of sight,” Oliver said.

“So maybe for the person who commutes downtown to the train station and then back home, maybe it’s just hiding around the corner behind a dumpster. But they don’t really solve the problem. And in fact, they probably do worse.”

Oliver said the province has not reached out to his association of municipalities to get their perspective on the issues facing residents and believes the government is spending its money in the wrong places.

“Throwing a bunch of cops at it at the last minute, with the provincial cops, just like… it’s just performative,” he said.


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