ARCHES Lethbridge report challenges complaints of increased crime, needle debris

Click to play video 'ARCHES Lethbridge report challenges statements of increased crime and needle debris numbers' ARCHES Lethbridge report challenges statements of increased crime and needle debris numbers
WATCH ABOVE: Lethbridge city council voted against a motion Monday to stop funding and needle distribution outside the supervised consumption site. Following that decision, a report from ARCHES highlighting the organization’s work over the last 18 months has been released to the public, thanks to recommendations from council. Demi Knight reports. – Aug 23, 2019

A report by ARCHES Lethbridge was made public Thursday evening and it challenges key community issues surrounding the supervised consumption site, including needle debris and increased crime rates in the city.

READ MORE: Rallies take place outside Lethbridge City Hall ahead of SCS motion

It’s no secret Lethbridge’s supervised consumption site has been contentious since its opening in February 2018.  However, officials with ARCHES say misinformation is at the centre of a lot of that concern.

“Even though that data has been corroborated and is good enough and valid enough for those legislative bodies,” said Jill Manning, director of operations for ARCHES Lethbridge.

“For some reason, there’s a mistrust of that data within the community.”

The report, first made and submitted to Lethbridge city council as a private document, is a 10-page report outlining the facility’s mandate, the progress made so far, and the statistics of services given, needles distributed and crime reported in the city.

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One of the most disputed arguments the site has faced in the last 18 months is claims of increased needle debris in the community. That is something Manning says this report debunks.

“When we compare the height of needle distribution in August 2017 to how we’ve been since Jan. 1, 2019, we’ve seen a 70 per cent reduction in needle distribution,” she said.

The document also tackles the issue of crime rates in the city.

The report includes a graph provided by Statistics Canada that highlights the first year the site was operational, reading:

“Lethbridge experienced a 13.05 per cent increase in crime.

“This increase is below the 14.9 per cent average growth rate that Lethbridge has experienced since 2014.

“It is also below the 15.94 per cent increase which occurred between 2016 and 2017.”

Watch below (May 2019): Usage numbers remain high at Lethbridge supervised consumption site

Click to play video 'Usage numbers remain high at Lethbridge supervised consumption site' Usage numbers remain high at Lethbridge supervised consumption site
Usage numbers remain high at Lethbridge supervised consumption site – May 21, 2019

The report also states 405 individuals have received life-saving interventions at the facility so far.

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It also found 558 people have received referrals for treatment, 329 have received referrals for detox and 178 referrals have been given to clients for housing.

These are all numbers Manning said speak loudly to the work being done on a consistent basis by the supervised consumption site.

READ MORE: Lethbridge city council defeats controversial supervised consumption site motion

However, some residents aren’t convinced the report is being truthful with the public.

“The statistics that are being presented to us, we strongly feel they need to be audited by an independent, outside source,” said Lou Mate, interim president for the Lethbridge Citizens Alliance (LCA).

“We don’t believe them. We believe that, upon a greater examination, a lot of things will come out of this.”

Mate added that the LCA hopes to see a further review.

“Right now, the citizens of Lethbridge are hearing one viewpoint and that is Mayor Chris Spearman’s and the ARCHES group,” he said.

“We need to hear additional statistics from the city police. Maclean’s magazine has published statistics that directly contradict what ARCHES is saying… So we need an independent review conducted. We need some honest, truthful information reflected back to the citizens of Lethbridge.”

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Following the decision Monday to vote against a motion filed by three councillors to stop funding for the site, as well as needle distribution outside of the facility, it was decided by council to make this report available to the public.