The Edmonton Police Service said it’s taking proactive steps to reduce the amount of crime throughout high-crime areas in the city. And so far, two programs are leading the way.
EPS provided an update Thursday to the Edmonton Police Commission on the integrated offender management (IOM) and healthy streets operation centre (HSOC) programs they say are making a difference in crime and safety in the city.
“Police are in the centre of all community safety and well-being. So we can maintain that presence and what we hope to do is expand to more areas and some of the displacement deal with that as well,” said EPS Chief Dale McFee.
The police commission heard the IOM which works with prolific and persistent offenders to reduce the likelihood of committing more crimes. The IOM was introduced two years ago and since then, it has seen a 70-per cent reduction in crime severity.
The IOM also saw a 56-per cent reduction in negative occurrences with police and a 59 per cent reduction in charges. However, the team says there is a key obstacle to rehabilitation.
“Transportation seems to be a real issue for a lot of our guys. A lot of the guys inside the sample were unable to get to treatment and were unable to get to the other side of the city for an appointment,” said Sgt. Renee Martynuik.
Also presenting to the police commission was the HSOC: a collaborative effort between the City of Edmonton, EPS, Edmonton Fire Rescue and AHS.
The HSOC patrols three high-crime areas — downtown, Chinatown and the Kingsway area — with two teams from Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to midnight.
They spend around 700 hours a month within the community safety areas.
So far, EPS said 50 per cent of people in those areas report feeling safer at night and around 45 per cent feel safer taking transit alone after dark.
“We’ve seen the increases in the disorder and criminality over the past three years in COVID. So knowing that crime severity is going down and the teams are working together with the community, we’re really seeing that increase in perception of safety,” said Insp. Angela Kemp with the crime suppression branch.
“Knowing that the teams are working together and they’re working with the community creating relationships is really heartwarming to me and to our team. We want to continue that in the future.”
With the deaths of two homeless people this year after fires in encampments, one thing that is a major concern currently for the police commission is those camps.
However, McFee says it’s not as easy as it sounds to get people in shelters and more stable housing.
“It starts with the action to say this isn’t going to be tolerated. You don’t wait for infrastructure — I mean, when you wait for infrastructure you’re always waiting,” McFee said.
“If they don’t want to be housed, it doesn’t matter how many beds you have. It takes a different approach. But it also has to say, ‘It’s not OK to camp outside, it’s going to get cold out.’
“We’ve had how many deaths by fire and we still think it’s safe — it’s not safe.”
Both McFee and Kemp note if they want to change the perception of shelter services, it needs to be addressed differently.
“We want to make sure that through the relationship building with police and our partners that we can actually get in and get their minds to change and reflect those pro-social changes,” said Kemp.
EPS will be expanding both teams within the next few years, hoping for nearly 24/7 coverage throughout key areas in the city.
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