The Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) is getting a $4.4 million upgrade to create units addressing gang suppression and firearms investigations.
Public Safety and Emergency Services Minister Mike Ellis made the announcement Wednesday in Calgary.
“Gun violence goes hand in hand with organized crime and gang activity. There is always a danger to innocent bystanders when our public spaces are disrupted by violence,” Ellis said.
Both the Calgary and Edmonton police services already have the same units within their organizations.
Calgary Police Service acting deputy chief Cory Dayley said the announced resources will complement what’s already in-house for CPS.
“It’s an addition and it’s an evolution,” Dayley said.
“I think what we have to concentrate on is that crime trends have evolved significantly along with the prevalence of handguns. It’s not a Calgary-unique problem, but it’s one that we have to concentrate on here in Calgary. So as quickly as our offenders and organized criminals here in Calgary, across the country and in North America move to acquire handguns in the many different ways that they do, we need to respond.”
Dayley said the CPS’ recently-renewed focus on gun violence in the city has resulted in a 38 per cent reduction in the pace of shootings, year-to-date when compared to last year.
Ellis hailed ALERT’s “intelligence-led approach to serious and organized crime,” including 11,500 arrests and triple the number of charges since the organization’s inception.
“Criminal gangs operate across all kinds of jurisdictional lines, so it makes sense to target these activities with law enforcement organizations that have a similar reach,” the public safety minister said.
The province expects to make similar announcements in other cities in the near future.
Jason Bobrowich, a Calgary-based inspector with ALERT, said the new teams are “tailor-made to provide a swift strike to gangs and organized crime.”
“Just in the past year, our teams have realized several record drug seizures in the Calgary area. This success is attributed to ALERT’s integrated model, which brings together the best and most sophisticated policing resources from across the province,” Bobrowich said.
“Through integration working together, we will be able to share criminal intelligence on gun crimes, gang violence and leverage firearms forensics in a timely manner to funnel it all into developing robust enforcement strategies.”
Ellis didn’t announce any new supports for social or education programs that could help divert people from getting involved with gangs.
“It’s not directly under the Ministry of Public Safety’s budget, but it is certainly in Mental Health and Addictions. When I was there, we wanted to make sure that kids had every avenue possible to make sure that they had role models, that they had resources to make sure that they do not fall into gang life,” Ellis, a former CPS officer, said.
“One thing that we used to say in the Calgary Police Service… (is) if the police officer isn’t there, the gang member is, and we want to eliminate that risk.”
Ellis and Shandro Ottawa-bound for bail reform
Ellis said bail reform needs addressing in the country, part of the reason he and Justice Minister Tyler Shandro are travelling to Ottawa on Friday.
“We are going to be talking specifically about bail reform. That’s really the objective, this meeting that’s going to be on Friday,” he said.
Ellis acknowledges bail reform is just one part of the justice system that can affect the possibility of re-offending.