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Residents feel unsafe in downtown Lethbridge after dark: survey

Residents feel unsafe in downtown Lethbridge after dark: survey
A new survey is shedding light on how safe residents feel in Lethbridge. The poll found more than 65 per cent of respondents feel unsafe downtown once the sun sets. Kyle Benning has more.

A new survey conducted for the Lethbridge Police Service (LPS) found community stakeholders generally feel very safe in most areas of the southern Alberta city.

But once the sun sets, those numbers fluctuate — especially in the downtown core.

According to the study, conducted by Lethbridge College researcher Faron Ellis, more than 65 per cent of respondents said they felt unsafe or somewhat unsafe downtown after hours.

READ MORE: Citizen survey suggests confidence in Lethbridge Police Service

He noted drug trafficking, drug use and property crime are the policing issues that residents are most concerned about across Lethbridge.

“But as we’ve seen recently, particularly with the needles and other things, these issues are spread throughout the community. And so this is valuable information. It shows that these priorities are the same no matter which beat you’re in,” Ellis said.

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LPS believes the drug issues are part of the reason personal safety is a concern in the downtown core.

“[Drug users] turn to property crime in a lot of circumstances. So we’re seeing a lot of our thefts and things like that … People are stealing to pay for their drug habits,” said Insp. Tom Ascroft.

The survey was commissioned by LPS and had 451 respondents.

READ MORE: London Police Service handing out surveys to gauge community needs

It looked for people who were part of business or community associations, ethnic or religious associations, public facility operators as well as primary and secondary educators.

One downtown business owner said she understands that some people may not be willing to visit downtown, but said crime has always existed.

“People that I think are going to sit there and feel comfortable are probably a little more acclimatized to downtown, but I don’t believe it is my responsibility as a business owner to convince people why they should come,” said the owner of Plum Restaurant, Erica Pyfka.

“We were broken into a year and a half ago. Long before anything was happening. Before there was a safe consumption site, there was crime happening.”