As the Lethbridge Police Service continues an investigation into the alleged misappropriation of government funds by ARCHES, data from the first full month after the shutdown of the city’s supervised consumption site (SCS) was presented at a Lethbridge Police Commission meeting on Wednesday.
An update from LPS’ economic crimes unit (ECU) in the meeting’s agenda said that the “ECU continues an extensive investigation into ARCHES and the SCS after the Government of Alberta conducted a financial audit earlier this year.”
“The allegations at this time consist of serious misappropriation of government funds intended to be used to operate the SCS and provide services to clients in harm reduction” the update read.
The ARCHES-run SCS shut its doors to clients seeking harm-reduction services on Aug. 31, and numbers reviewed by the police commission on Wednesday paint a picture of the first full month (September) since the facility closed.
Calls for LPS service were down in the city overall month-over-month — from 3,480 in August to 3,337 in September — as well as in the downtown core.
The downtown saw a five per cent drop from August, with 889 calls for service in the downtown in September.
Members of The Watch, a volunteer-run downtown foot patrol, reported a reduction in the number of opioid overdoses attended by team members. After 18 events in July and August combined, that number dropped to three in September.
Drug and violent crime calls were up throughout the city in September, but Lethbridge saw a significant drop in social disorder calls — from 358 to 292 — month-over-month.
LPS Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh said that social disorder calls dropping could be related to things returning closer to a pre-COVID-19 normal.
“With COVID(-19), because more people are home, more people are making observations,” Mehdizadeh said. “People are choosing to call the police more often to report these incidents, which is exactly what we want… to see what’s really going on in the city.”
Mehdizadeh said LPS values every call from Lethbridge residents, and while citizens might not always see immediate results, those calls are still important.
“We may not do anything right off the bat (and) it may not result in anything, but over time, when we see a trend, it really helps us from an analytical perspective and being able to see trends that are coming up in the city,” he said.
“Over time, it may amount to more presence and more initiatives.”
Mehdizadeh responds to Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society operations
A citizen group that has routinely protested near the pop-up tent being operated by the Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society (LOPS) presented to the police commission on Wednesday night, pleading for the LPS to shut down the harm-reduction operation.
Mehdizadeh said the LPS continues to monitor the activities of the group, which has regularly set up in Galt Gardens.
“We haven’t seen any criminal activity. We have our officers there all the time. If we do see criminal activity, we’ll deal with it,” he said.
Mehdizadeh said even without criminal activity, he doesn’t agree with the actions of the LOPS.
“The intention of the people (running) that tent might be good, but the way they’re going about it is wrong,” he said.
“And I continue the message that I don’t believe they truly understand the liability that they’re taking on by having this tent open.”
With officers constantly keeping an eye out when the pop-up tent is active at night, LPS resources have been impacted.
“It does take away from our resources — absolutely — but I’d rather have presence there so more bad things don’t happen in that area than not having anyone there,” said Mehdizadeh.
“This is an important issue right now and we need to make sure we have a presence there to make sure peace is maintained.”
Watch below: Some Global News videos about drug use in Lethbridge.