Edmonton’s police chief met with Mill Woods residents at the Woodvale Community League on Wednesday night to have “an information exchange” about crime in the area, something he said he’s also done with about half a dozen other communities lately.
“I think it’s just important that I have a feeling and understanding of what’s going on throughout our city and no better place to do it than from the communities.”
Watch below: In December, 2018, incoming Edmonton police chief Dale McFee laid out his goals for the new role, saying face-to-face conversations are the best way to build relationships with community groups.
Nickel told Global News he’s received a growing number of calls from residents about their concern over crime in Mill Woods recently and that he wants to “get in front of this.”
“As I look into this more, we’re finding this is not just a problem in Mill Woods. This is clear across the city.”
Nickel said he recently told McFee that he has “gotta come down and talk to my constituents because they’ve had enough.”
Marian Biggar lives in the Richfield area in Mill Woods and said she believes problems like break-ins involving vehicles and garages seem to be getting worse and that she wants to know if the city could be “getting really scary.”
Nickel suggested he believes the development of the Ice District in downtown Edmonton may have spread crime that used to be more concentrated in that area elsewhere.
Finding innovative ways to fight crime
Nickel added that “money is tight” in the city these days and as a result, “everybody has to chip in” to fight crime and more creativity is needed to address the issue.
McFee also said more innovation when it comes to fighting crime will help. He pointed to the recent spike in liquor store thefts across the city as one example.
Watch below: (from Sept. 25, 2019) A huge increase in liquor store robberies in Edmonton has caught the attention of local police, the city and AGLC. Breanna Karstens-Smith has more.
McFee noted that Edmonton’s reputation as a hub for high-tech innovation and artificial intelligence is something he would like to see his police force leverage more.
He said in some cases, he would like to see the city’s brightest minds in the high-tech sphere help police come up with new crimefighting ideas because if only police do so, the ideas won’t always be “cutting edge.”
Meth use a growing concern in Edmonton
McFee said Wednesday that figuring out what drives criminal behaviour is essential to fighting crime and that one of those drivers that currently has him concerned is drug use, specifically meth.
McFee said his police officers have recently taken a significant amount of drugs and guns off the street but that he believes they need to continue “to be relentless on that.”
Watch below: (From Sept. 10, 2019) Edmonton police seized more than $800,000 worth of drugs and guns in two separate investigations recently. Officers say it will make a difference in the drug trafficking world. Julia Wong reports.
He said that while going after drug dealers is critical, crime problems tied to meth also need to be addressed by connecting users with resources that can address mental health and addictions.
Ward 10 Councillor Michael Walters echoed the police chief’s concerns. Next week, he plans to put forward a motion at city council in hopes of opening up the discussion around the city’s meth problem.
“It’s affecting our communities through an increase in crime, it’s affecting our businesses through increased social disorder and break-ins and I think ultimately, it’s something that we have to step up on and really understand what we can do. I don’t know what we can do and that’s why we need to have this conversation.”
Walters said the solution will likely be a collaborative effort between government, law enforcement and health-care organizations. He said he “definitely” thinks the province needs to be involved in the conversation.
“I think a lot of the rural crime — that they seem a little bit more focused on than they do in the big cities right now — is likely sourced to meth as well. I think this is problem that we have across the province and all of our communities, affecting young people particularly, and certainly hurting our businesses.”
‘More eyes and ears’ needed
McFee said that at the end of the day, “the more eyes and ears we have, the better chance we have of solving some of our problems” when it comes to crime.
“Every community, as you know, in Edmonton is different,” he said. “Some of the issues in different parts of the city are going to be different and that’s OK.
“But when you actually build a plan for the city, you need to know what are some of the drivers, what are some of the things that are leading to some of the behaviour and obviously some of the crime… and it’s important that you get the whole picture from the whole city.”
McFee said he also believes it’s important that his police force shares information about localized crime trends with specific communities so people are more aware of issues in their neighbourhoods.
“The chief has been very clear about, he thinks the community is part of the solution,” Nickel said. “So that’s what we’re going to do.
Nickel said it’s imperative to make people feel safe in their communities.
“This is what people pay their taxes for and if they don’t feel safe in their neighbourhoods, if they’re constantly in fear of having their stuff broken into or worse, then I’m not doing my job, to be quite honest,” he said.