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Mayor Nenshi pitches $25M from Calgary rainy-day fund for mental health, addictions, crime strategy

Council will decide Monday whether to pull millions from the city’s rainy-day fund to help fund a city-wide mental health, addiction and crime prevention strategy.

The notice of motion, drafted by Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Couns. Farrell, Woolley, Colley-Urquhart, Farkas, Carra and Chahal outlines increases in social disorder in the downtown and in certain CTrain nodes and the need for a unified strategy to combat it.

The ask is for $25 million over the next five years and for administration to develop a plan by the end of this year for awarding the funds for specific initiatives.

“Over the last several years, as you know, not only have we seen a sharp rise in social disorder, particularly in the downtown core and certain CTrain nodes, but also a sharp increase in crimes against property throughout the community,” Nenshi said.

“When I talk to the young woman who bought a condo in the East Village so that she could live and work downtown but now has to drive because she’s not comfortable walking into her own building after dark, clearly something’s not working well,” Nenshi said.

According Calgary Police Service statistical data for the first four months of 2018, in the three specific downtown areas recorded (Downtown Commercial Core, Downtown East Village and Downtown West End), there were a combined 2,777 reported social disorder calls.

Explanation of the Calgary Police data from their downloadable excel spreadsheet.



In comparison with the first four months of years 2014 to 2017, 2018 is the highest, but only marginally over 2016 (2777 calls to 2701) but about 25 per cent over 2017 (2777 calls to 2261).

The highest increase between 2017 and 2018 in those three areas was in the Downtown East Village, where they saw a jump from 225 social disorder calls to 355 – or nearly 51 per cent.  On the flip side, there was a nearly nine per cent drop in the Downtown West End (102 calls in 2018 and 111 in 2017 – both down substantially from 183 calls in 2016).

Nenshi said that in the past the city has thrown money “episodically” at certain emerging crime or social disorder trends but said it wouldn’t be as effective as putting that money into one place with a “systems-wide view” on mental health, addiction and crime prevention.

“When you look at what we spend on police, bylaw, fire or with FCSS… we’re spending a lot of money in an uncoordinated fashion,” Nenshi said, adding that this would be more like the city leading the charge for the 10-year plan to end homelessness or the poverty reduction strategy.

“It ended up in a system that spent the existing money more efficiently.”

Nenshi anticipates bringing in Alberta Health Services, the Calgary Police Service, “a giant web of front line agencies” and area property owners together to build the strategy.

Councillors will debate the motion at the July 30 combined meeting of council.