Calgary committee hears concerns about supervised consumption site

Click to play video: 'Calgary city committee looks at crime near drug consumption site: ‘It’s scary’' Calgary city committee looks at crime near drug consumption site: ‘It’s scary’
WATCH: A huge increase in crime around the downtown safe consumption site was a big topic at Calgary city hall Wednesday. A recent report showed a dramatic spike in drug-related calls, break-ins and violent crime since the site opened at the Sheldon Chumir Centre. As Gil Tucker reports, people in the area say they've had enough – Feb 13, 2019

Social agencies and members of the public presented concerns about Calgary’s supervised consumption site to the community services committee on Wednesday.

Police and fire officials spoke about the increased social disorder and spike in crime in the area. Alberta Health Services officials talked about steps it is taking, such as increasing security patrols in the area.

Effect on residents

Residents living near the consumption site at the Sheldon M. Chumir Centre spoke of how they feel unsafe in the area.

“People like my daughter and granddaughters have to walk in fear as they go to work or school,” said Sherry Crawford in her presentation to the committee. “You imply that all lives matter yet you are deliberately choosing to prioritize addicts’ lives over those of my daughters and granddaughters.”

READ MORE: Calgary city council votes to study safety initiatives for downtown safe consumption site

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Jessica McEachern, a peer support worker at the site, said the increased security in the area has a negative impact.

“It’s really disheartening as people that I see that have come and been using the site from the beginning to now… they feel they can’t trust us anymore because of the increased police presence around,” she said.

Resources and strategies

Ward 8 Coun. Evan Woolley said strategies, such as daily needle clean-ups and police patrols, are already being used to help address social disorder. He added that working to provide supports to the site will help the surrounding neighbourhood.

“Ensuring that we have the wraparound supports and that the wraparound supports are working, we will see better outcomes in terms of social disorder and crime in the community that we’re experiencing and having challenges with,” he said.

READ MORE: Spike in crime around Calgary supervised consumption site leads to questions about resources

Calgary deputy police chief Ryan Ayliffe said officers have made a point of directing more resources at that area.

“That includes changing shifts, re-deploying officers from bikes, re-deploying beat officers,” Ayliffe said. “We have engaged in other investigative resources in the area to supplement some of our investigative tactics.”

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Ayliffe said that police alone won’t be able to address issues in the area.

“There’s nothing an officer possesses in their tool belt that can allow them to work on these problems in isolation,” Ayliffe said. “We have to work with all the partners in the city and in the province and federally to resolve the root issues of these problems.”

Impact on future projects

Concerns surrounding the site have led an east Calgary community association to withdraw support for another proposed supervised consumption site.

HIV Community Link hopes to have a mobile supervised consumption site operating in neighbourhoods like Forest Lawn. The project has not yet been approved by Health Canada and specific locations have not been determined.

READ MORE: Calgary supervised consumption site given 1-year extension by Health Canada

Troubled by the CPS report outlining significant increases in drug-related calls and violent crime in the area surrounding the Chumir site, the Forest Lawn Community Association said it would not support having a safe injection site in their neighbourhood.

“Given that the only information we have comes back with such a negative response, we just can’t take that risk,” association president William Carnegie said.

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“Right now, I just don’t see anything going forward where we can support it.”

However, HIV Community Link believes its mobile site won’t experience the same sort of social disorder seen at the Chumir site.

“We’ll be a low-volume service that will be in a neighbourhood a few hours at a time rather than a large service that’s operating 24 hours a day,” executive director Leslie Hill said.

She added that the organization will have outreach teams to help ease any concerns community members have. Security teams could also be added as a precaution.

WATCH: People living near the Sheldon M. Chumir Centre supervised consumption site delivered impassioned pleas for change to a City of Calgary committee on Wednesday, as officials grapple with public safety issues surrounding the site. Blake Lough reports.

Click to play video: 'Calgarians bring concerns about supervised consumption site to city hall' Calgarians bring concerns about supervised consumption site to city hall
Calgarians bring concerns about supervised consumption site to city hall – Feb 14, 2019

City administration is being asked to consider feedback in developing recommendations in response to the 12 items up for study from Woolley.

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On Feb. 25, city council will get an update on actions taken to address social disorder and public safety.

The issue will head back to committee in the second quarter of the year.

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