After Alberta’s justice minister gave Edmonton’s mayor two weeks to present the province with a public safety plan to address crime and violence in downtown, Chinatown and transit, the two are set to meet on Tuesday.
Amarjeet Sohi said Monday he would be meeting with Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, minister of community and social services Jason Luan, and associate minister of mental health and addictions Mike Ellis on Tuesday afternoon at the Alberta legislature.
“We will lay out the work that (the city) is doing and have been doing, but we’ll also ask them for their help. We’re desperate for help,” the mayor said.
“We have been calling for interventions from Day 1. I’m glad that they’ve started listening to us. I look forward to the conversation that we will have with them.”
In a May 26 letter, Shandro asked Sohi to take immediate action to combat “alarming” levels of crime in downtown, Chinatown and on transit, and share it with the province by June 9.
“Within the next two weeks, I will require a public safety plan from you that will increase police response to this disorder and ensure members of the public can use Edmonton’s public transit safely,” Shandro wrote.
As justice minister, Shandro said he has “a responsibility under the Police Act to ensure the people of Edmonton receive the law enforcement protection they deserve.”
Edmonton city councillors highlighted efforts were already underway but also stressed the responsibility of the provincial government in addressing the root causes of social disorder.
“I share the same concerns about the safety of downtown, Chinatown and the LRT that he highlighted,” the mayor said Thursday. “The social issues that are causing these safety issues are nothing new.”
“The disorder and crime that we’re seeing in our downtown is directly linked to the lack of provincial investments in ending houselessness, the mental health crisis, drug poisoning and addictions crisis.
“Ever since I was elected, I’ve been raising these issues with the provincial government and have been asking them to step up to help to deal with them. So far, they have neglected these asks,” Sohi continued.
“We will continue to ask for funding that would address the root causes of social disorder, and without firm commitment from the province, the city is left to take on the responsibility that belongs to the province, including funding housing, pushing the province to develop minimum standards for shelters and dealing with the end results of chronic underfunding of mental health and the COVID crises.”
Council also pointed out that public safety initiatives to address these specific issues have been in the works for months.
On Friday, city manager Andre Corbould and other staff provided updates on the Transit Safety and Security Plan (which was approved by council in February), the Community Safety and Well-being Strategy (approved by council earlier this week), the city’s Anti-Racism Strategy (approved by council in February), as well as immediate actions taken to help Chinatown combat rising levels of violent crime.
However, Sohi highlighted on Monday specific actions the city is taking.
The city will immediately:
- Provide a detailed breakdown of all resources and funding provided to support Chinatown.
- Implement a public washroom plan with a focus on Chinatown and clearly articulate timing, location and operational plans which will be coordinated with the Chinatown and Area Business Association.
- Provide a $300,000 grant to the Chinatown and Area Business Association to help fund private security resources in and throughout Chinatown so that businesses do not need to pay for this out of their own pockets.
- Review and clarify the powers, authorities and procedures for bylaw officers, private security and police so that businesses and community partners have a shared understanding of the types of enforcement that can be expected.
- Refrain from sending written warnings to owners to clean up properties. Instead, we will communicate directly with those owners and let them know how we can assist them to clean up both public areas in front of their businesses and private property.
- Implement a Chinatown needle cleanup program.
- Commence a daily cleaning of streets and back alleys throughout Chinatown.
- Establish a dedicated Chinatown post-COVID vibrancy fund along the same model as the Downtown Recovery Coalition.
- Develop an improved streetscape plan for the core in Chinatown to assist with the prevention of encampment setups. This will be funded through the Chinatown Recovery Fund.
- Review with the Chinatown and Area Business Association acceptable mutual aid agencies they are willing to work with based on previous issues.
- Develop multilingual information materials where information needs are identified.
- Complete a safety audit of Chinatown, present findings and recommendations to the Chinatown and Area Business Association and prepare an implementation plan to address all recommendations.
- Commence a Chinatown promotion campaign with a focus on attracting patrons to Chinatown businesses.
- When possible, provide the Chinatown and Area Business Association with a summary of actions on fires in the area.
Over the longer term, the city will:
- Work with Chinatown on a Community Enhancement Plan for council consideration.
- Create a five-year plan for decentralization of social services to limit the concentration in Chinatown.
- Consider rules and regulations within city administration for the operation of not for profits, to address the perception that rules are unfair for profit-making business owners compared to not for profits.
- Advocate to the province for:
- A prohibition on releasing health patients into houselessness.
- A prohibition of releasing offenders from provincial corrections facilities into houselessness.
- Limits to pharmacy concentration in Chinatown.
- Advocate to the federal government for:
- A prohibition of releasing offenders from federal corrections facilities into houselessness.
- Consider limiting new permits for additional social agencies in Chinatown.
- Review the Boyle Street Development Plan and assess impacts before proceeding further.
- Coordinate with social agencies and charities to:
- Convene a constructive and facilitated planning session between social agencies and Chinatown business owners to review and address operating procedures that negatively impact businesses and residents
- Convene a meeting of social agencies with provincial and federal governments to focus on issues in Chinatown.
- Implement a community-wide public awareness campaign reminding charities and charitable people not to drop resources off randomly in Chinatown.
- Ask agencies to re-consider methods of food distribution to minimize litter in and around Chinatown.
- Investigate whether eating and food preparation spaces can be added at the Herb Jamieson shelter, and explore funding options through private donations, government contributions and public-private partnerships.
- Hire a social agencies client coordinator who would work with the Chinatown and Area Business Association and social agencies to identify and resolve issues and support compliance with the Good Neighbour Plan.
- Review and improve all good neighbour agreements.
- Increase coordination with Edmonton Police Service:
- Commence integrated joint teams including EPS, Fire, EMS, social agencies and City Peace Officers under joint unified command.
- Request EPS review their custody release procedures as described by business owners, and amend procedures where possible.
- Enhance presence of EPS, Bylaw, EMS and private security to achieve nearly 24/7 monitoring of Chinatown.