Edmonton’s Downtown Business Association worried about ‘blatant drug use’ along Jasper Avenue

The 7-Eleven at Jasper Avenue and 104 Street on June 7, 2018. Scott Johnston/630 CHED

After a notable increase of criminal activity in certain downtown Edmonton hot spots, Edmonton’s Downtown Business Association (DBA) is speaking up.

“Some gang activity has certainly increased in and around Edmonton City Centre [Mall],” DBA executive director Ian O’Donnell told city council’s executive committee on Thursday. “Sadly some of the 7-Elevens are some of those kind of magnets.”

He identified the locations along Jasper ave, at both 104 and 101 Streets.

“What we’ve seen and we’ve felt and what we’ve heard from our business owners is that they’re seeing more drug use, and more blatant drug use, and also not aggressive pan-handling, but people being aggressive in the street just to people walking by randomly.”

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A check of downtown as a whole on the Edmonton Police Service neighborhood crime map shows roughly a little over 100 crimes every month over the last 30 and 60 days. O’Donnell said the stats “you need to take with a grain of salt, because we are getting more reporting,” as more and more people are downtown.

A screenshot of the Edmonton Police Service crime mapping feature. Screenshot

According to O’Donnell, the downtown 7-Eleven stores pose a particular problem.

“The business does offer low cost items and so people are able to eat and have services from them, but there tends to be a lingering around those areas and a conglomeration of people and groups of folks doing transactions and perhaps and loitering and causing issues for other businesses in the area,” he said.

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He added the, DBA, the Downtown Community League and police have been working with business owners in the area to try and find a solution.

Police are giving businesses tips on how to make themselves more customer friendly, so numbers of people in the streets increases.

“Business owners making sure they have transparent windows, so they can see in and out of their business,” O’Donnell said. “Making sure the area is clean and safe and welcoming. It’s the broken window theory of New York. You want to make sure that the area is great for people to linger and to be about, and that will often solve some of these issues.”

Police took action Wednesday, upping their presence in the three hot spots. O’Donnell said he tried to observe in an undercover sort of way at 104 Street as police did more interaction with people in the area. He said he walks a lot every day, and asks who ever he meets with in his daily meetings to tell the DBA about both the bad things they see and the good.

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