The supervised consumption site at Calgary’s Sheldon Chumir Centre seems to be at the centre of a spike in calls to police during the first quarter of 2019.
A corresponding increased police presence appears to have curtailed disturbances in the area.
A report from the Calgary Police Service released Wednesday showed a 50 per cent increase in calls to police from the public compared to the three-year average. The number of calls dipped in February and March 2019.
The report also shows a 35 per cent increase in disorder calls, a 246 per cent increase in drug-related calls, a 40 per cent increase in violent incidents and an 82 per cent increase in break and enters in the area between January and March of this year.
“The numbers, if you look at just pure percentages, we’re talking about a small dataset, so it looks like it’s quite high,” CPS Insp. Rob Davidson told Global News.
LISTEN: Insp. Rob Davidson joins Calgary Today to discuss the increases in calls near the Sheldon Chumir Centre in early 2019
“But the positive that I took out of it is when we increased the police presence in February and March, we put those thousand hours of proactive police work into the area. We saw the numbers drop in February. We saw the numbers, even after the cold spell, say lower in March.
“And I think from that and the work that we’re doing with our partners on other programming and other issues, I’m feeling pretty positive coming out of this report that we’re heading in the right direction.”
Davidson said a “significant shift” in the latter two months resulted in a positive impact on the Beltline neighbourhood surrounding the Chumir Centre.
“The city has a bunch of things that are being planned with parks and activation of that space,” he said.
“The comments that our officers are hearing from [the] community is that things are getting much better and that people are feeling safer and enjoying the space more.”
Davidson said that integrating efforts from the police, city and community are integral to keeping the area safe for citizens.
“The goal here is having a cross-collaborative approach,” Davidson said. “We increase the police presence, we increase programming that’s in the area, we activate the space, we try and find that healthy balance where we are not only able to achieve the objectives of harm reduction with our partners in the Alberta Health Services but also keep the community safe.”
Police will also continue their zero-tolerance approach to illegal drugs.
“We’re committed to public safety,” Davidson said. “We will be working very hard and targeting sales and distribution of illicit drugs. And we also continue with zero tolerance on public drug use with criminal behaviour and with social disorder. So we’re not going to let up on those things yet.”
Enforcement is one small aspect of an overarching strategy necessary to combat the issues that resulted in increased calls to police.
Davidson said a long-term strategy is needed.
“Underlying root causes — we’ve talked about this before — include mental health and addiction. Early adverse childhood experiences. Homelessness,” Davidson said.
“Those are complex and some very, very difficult cases to work through, and you’re talking multiyear strategies. Not quick hits just with harm reduction or a quick hit with a detox or addiction program, but long term into housing. And that’s the challenge that’s going to be there.
“This isn’t going to be solved only through enforcement-based strategies.”
– With files from Ryan Robinson and Joe McFarland