Information session for downtown Lethbridge businesses highlights safety concerns, solutions

Information session for downtown CITY businesses highlights safety concerns and solutions
Issues like the growing drug crisis and increases in fraudulent activity are spurring conversations about safety in downtown CITY. Now, the city is collaborating with several organizations to host monthly information sessions to help businesses navigate those issues. Demi Knight reports.

As Lethbridge continues to face an uphill battle with the ongoing drug crisis, the question of safety — specifically in the downtown area — has come into question.

Now, one new initiative is looking to help remedy growing concerns with monthly education sessions on safety in the city.

“This is just the first of many seminars that will be happening on a regular basis for the business community,” said Ted Stilson, executive director with the Downtown Lethbridge Business Revitalization Zone (Downtown BRZ). “These will make it more safe for (businesses) and their employees moving forward.”

READ MORE: Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman speaks on drug crisis and job creation in state of the city address

The new education program is one of the city’s 12 initiatives in the Downtown Clean and Safe Strategy, developed in January 2019.

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Partnering with the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce, Lethbridge Police Service and the Downtown BRZ, the City of Lethbridge hosted its first session on Tuesday.

Officials say these sessions will run every third Tuesday of the month for the foreseeable future to help inform the public of programs in place and other developments to ensure public safety.

Some of those initiatives include the watch program slated to start this summer and additions to the Clean Sweep program already underway in the city.

“We’re in this together, and the police service has committed to work with all of the stakeholders here to help improve the perceptions of safety, not just in the downtown but throughout the city,” said Rob Davis, chief of police with the Lethbridge Police Service.

READ MORE: Volunteer group will patrol downtown Lethbridge starting this spring

Officials added that the sessions will also provide better points of contact for businesses trying to access current safety programs as well as opportunities to give feedback on safety concerns not being addressed.

“Some of the session will fill some gaps,” said Kristie Kruger, president of the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce.

“Some of it will allow us to ask some questions to our key stakeholders and the group of people here today: are we on the right track? Are we filling some holes? Is there anything that we’re missing?”

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READ MORE: Lethbridge moving up list of Canada’s most dangerous places: Maclean’s

However, it wasn’t only businesses in attendance at the first session but local residents as well.

“I wanted to come down, as opening a downtown business is a primary goal for my family,” said Peny Warris, a new resident to the area.

“Although we know there are issues here, we feel that the city and everything that we saw today with the Heart of Our City (revitalization project for downtown Lethbridge) and the BRZ and all of that is really making strides in the right direction.”

The city said almost 60 businesses are registered for the sessions, along with individual employees and residents, and officials hope for another great turnout at the next session, which is set to take place on March 19 at CASA.