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Crime Suppression Team hits the streets of Lethbridge; chief said it couldn’t wait

Crime Suppression Team hits the streets of Lethbridge
The Crime Suppression Team officially launched in Lethbridge on Wednesday with a focus on targeting recurring criminal activity in the city. Demi Knight reports.

Six police officers have formed a new Crime Suppression Team (CST) in Lethbridge, with a goal of targeting negative behaviours and serial offences in the city.

“The new team is committed to making a difference,” said Lethbridge Police Service interim chief Scott Woods.

“I am confident they will work hard and in time we will see positive change.”

The CST is made up of specified officers with experience in surveillance and drug-related offences who can strategically target known or suspected individuals and groups.

READ MORE: Lethbridge continues to move up Maclean’s list of Canada’s most dangerous places

Over the last year, a significant increase in calls for service around the supervised consumption site and the surrounding downtown area prompted the formation of this new unit.

Woods said this new team will supply more surveillance to problem areas in the city with visible officers on the streets and through covert investigative techniques.

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READ MORE: Lethbridge police see jump in calls to supervised consumption site

“We have seen the ongoing effects of the drug crisis on our community and we’ve heard the concerns raised by our citizens,” Woods said.

“The Crime Suppression Team won’t be a cure-all, but having dedicated resources to enhance our street presence and strategically target the spin-off crime, public disorder and chronic offenses that have resulted will have an impact.”

‘It takes a community’: Lethbridge takes action against drug crimes
‘It takes a community’: Lethbridge takes action against drug crimes

With a specific focus on downtown Lethbridge, local officials hope this new initiative can help suppress some of the criminal activity that has spiked in the area in recent years.

“Since the drug crisis, we’ve seen an increase in shoplifting, break and enters, pan-handling and those types of things as well as nuisance behaviours,” said Ted Stilson, the executive director of Downtown BRZ.

Stilson said he has high hopes the CST will assist existing initiatives in the area such as the Watch Program and Community Peace Officers (CPO) in making the area safer for everyone.

“I think it fits in really well with the overall clean and safe strategy for the downtown,” he said.

“The CPOs are already doing a great job and we’re noticing the difference they’re making. So I think this new strategy will make it even safer for our employees, our business owners and clients in the downtown area.”

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READ MORE: Lethbridge police see jump in calls to supervised consumption site

The team is currently made up of existing officers, including one sergeant and five constables.

So far, the CST hasn’t received confirmation of funding from the city. Right now, the program is being covered by the existing LPS budget, leaving several positions vacant.

But Woods said rolling out this program couldn’t wait.

“I said we were going to move forward with it regardless and we have,” he said.

“I made it perfectly clear that I was willing to pull resources from other areas within the police service. I decided to go with a six-person team at this time to minimize the impact of some of the other areas of the police service that we had to take some of these resources from.”