While Edmontonians have been very well behaved during the Oilers’ playoff games, the police chief said the run has been expensive for the force.
So far, it’s cost the Edmonton Police Service about $400,000 for overtime and associated expenses.
“That’s a big hit on our budget,” Chief Rod Knecht said Monday. “It is having an impact.”
He said, during the first round, the additional cost to police — for things like overtime, administration, vehicle and radio — was about $30,000 a game. For that series, the EPS was able to plan ahead and change some shifts around to save some money. Since then, the cost has risen.
“We don’t want to be a wet blanket here. The second round cost us a little bit more, the third, the price is going to go up again.
“You can’t budget for this, you don’t expect it,” he said. “We’ll see if there’s some way to absorb it. If we can’t absorb it, we’ll probably go forward and ask for some relief.”
Coun. Scott McKeen said he’ll be looking for help from the province and even the federal government to assist with added policing costs.
“I think we’ll probably want to talk to both other orders of government about some sharing of costs as there are very few other Canadian teams left in the Stanley Cup Playoffs,” he said.
“The other thing is I suppose talking to the Oilers Entertainment Group or the NHL to see if they have allocated any funds for this extraordinary cost as well.
“I don’t think it’s a controversial position to say that if there are extraordinary policing costs, whether it’s due to an act of nature or an act of Connor McDavid — or maybe I should say Leon Draisaitl — that there might be some help available.”
McKeen also reminded Edmontonians that downtown isn’t just an entertainment hub; it’s also a residential neighbourhood that should be respected.
Knecht made the comments during his Coffee With the Chief event. He wore a signed Oilers jersey, complete with a police badge on the arm, while speaking with reporters.
The chief said police have been pleasantly surprised by fans’ behaviour thus far.
“I have to really throw accolades out to Edmontonians… This crowd has been extremely responsible and it’s really great to see.”
Knecht said he expected to see an increase in impaired driving since the playoffs started, but that hasn’t been the case.
“We’ll stop a car, the driver is sober maybe three or four other people in that car are not sober but they’re responsible and they’re respectful. All they’re trying to do is enjoy the game, support their team, and get home safely, and that’s all we ask.”
Police are seeing a slight uptick in the number of arrests for public drunkenness, Knecht said.
“But not an alarming amount, a very manageable amount,” he said, adding citizens are helping each other, policing themselves and having “great interaction” with police.
Knecht said the EPS has learned from its mistakes when it comes to managing big hockey crowds.
“We’ve made some mistakes in the past,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the ‘us versus them’; it’s, ‘hey, we’re all in this together. This is Edmonton’s reputation.’
“Are they overindulging? Absolutely, we have pockets of people who are overindulging but not to the point where they’re behaving criminally.”
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The chief said the force took lessons from Edmonton’s 2006 experience and also talked to police in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Caglary and the U.S. about their post-game approach.
“We were prepared… Our strategy for the playoffs was to front-end load, which is to say we put 200 more police officers on the street for home games, right off the bat.”
On a broader scale, Knecht said crime rates around Rogers Place are down.
“Nuisance crime is up a little bit, drug trafficking is up a little bit — not an alarming amount.”
Knecht said the EPS changed its policing approach downtown. Since there’s a larger police presence in the area, officers are witnessing people committing crimes, rather than responding re-actively.
“I would say that is actually attributing to the fact that the violent crime is down because there is an increased police presence… I would also say the increased volume of people who are down there now I think is contributing too. People are policing the community, there are more eyes and ears out there.”