As 2012 comes to a close, Police Chief Rod Knecht is reflecting on the year gone by, and looking forward to what 2013 has in store for the Edmonton Police Service.
“If we see an issues that we think we can save lives and make Edmontonians safer, we’re going to bring it to the forefront,” Knecht said Friday in an year end interview.
“We take our direction from the public, they pay the bills, and if they tell us this is an issue for them, we want to focus on that issue.”
A major area of concern for police in 2012 was domestic violence. Knecht says the number of domestic violence cases officers responded to this year jumped 30 percent from 2011, and it’s an issue he expects will remain a problem in 2013.
“We’re getting between four and five serious domestic violence complaints every Friday and Saturday night, over the last four or five months, so it is something that is quite significant right now. I don’t know what it is, of late, there may be a number of precipitating factors, whether it’s the economy, it could be a number of things but, it is a concern for us,” Knecht explained.
Last month, EPS launched a graphic speak out campaign, urging the public to report domestic violence. Knecht says the campaign will continue into 2013.
Another campaign Knecht expects to continue into 2013 is Operation Warrant Execution (Project OWE). EPS executed two phases of Project OWE in 2012, aimed at clearing up 16,000 outstanding warrants for offences ranging from bylaw infractions to murder.
In the first phase of the project, police successfully executed more than 5,600 warrants and arrested nearly 2,700 people. The second phase of the project focused on catching more violent criminals. Nearly 1,500 warrants were executed in the second phase.
Another issue Knecht is concerned with is the number of calls Edmonton police are responding to, with respect to the mentally ill, homeless, and addicted in our city.
“We deal with 35,000 plus calls a year,” Knecht said, “Each one of those calls, we’ve timed them, on average we spend 104 minutes per call.”
Knecht says rather than receive treatment, those people end up calling emergency services or end up in jail, tying up the wrong resources.
“Some of these people we deal with over 100 times a year. It chews up a lot of resources. It’s not a good use of police resources. It’s not a good use of health care resources.”
The police chief wants to see an assessment centre built, with social service agencies under one roof.
“Police, we’re very expensive, the courts are expensive, jails are very expensive. We think investing that money in care and getting these people to a safer place is a much better investment of public funds and it takes care of these people and we can make them productive members of society.”
Knecht says looking forward to 2013, he would also like to see more public engagement.
“The public has told us they want their police to be more visible, so we want to be out there more. We’re encouraging all of our front line officers to get out there and engage the public more, to talk to them more and we really look forward to a good relationship in 2013.”
Watch the full interview with Knecht below: