Downtown arena policing plan keeps Edmonton chief up at night

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WATCH ABOVE: Edmonton police have outlined a new security plan to handle big crowds outside Rogers Place, but the police chief says it's keeping him up at night. As Fletcher Kent explains, he would like more police officers available to handle the new look downtown – Aug 18, 2016

EDMONTON – The first big event at Rogers Place is now less than a month away and Edmonton’s police chief is a little worried.

“Not entirely comfortable,” said Rod Knecht of new plans to police the downtown area.

“Am I going to get a sound night’s sleep? Not necessarily.”

Last year, Knecht had asked for 100 new officers, in part because of anticipated downtown growth due to the new arena.

City council approved 40 new officers.

READ MORE: ‘I wish we could do more’: City councillor on Edmonton police budget 

Police are assigning 33 of those to the downtown beat. That doubles the number of officers in that unit.

The remaining seven new officers will be part of the hospitality policing unit which will work closely with downtown bars and restaurants.

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Knecht worries when you take into account shift work, vacations and sick leave, 40 new officers means seven or eight on shift at any given time. He questions if that will make a difference on a night when the area is packed with Oilers fans.

“We are going to be under significant pressure to police that area depending on the number of events and the number of people who attend those events,” the chief said.

“We will have resourcing issues and we’re going to have to change the way we police.”

Knecht isn’t sure how big of a resourcing issue he faces. Both he and Staff Sgt. Christopher Edge say police have to monitor what happens after Rogers Place opens its doors.

More changes may be needed.

“We’re going to have to wait and see but I’m confident that the plans we have in place put us in a good position for Day 1 and we can adjust on the fly,” Edge said.

READ MORE: Edmonton police to close more community stations, expand online reporting 

Residents living around the arena hope police can adjust quickly enough.

Veronica Smith applauds the work police do in the area but she worries about what might happen outside her 104 Street condo following a big arena event.

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“Alcohol and unhappy fans – those two things together will really make this street unlivable,” she said.

The first big test of the new policing plan comes Sept. 16 when Keith Urban plays the first concert in Rogers Place.