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Crime near Sheldon M. Chumir supervised consumption site prompts city councillor’s call for action

Coun. Evan Woolley says he’s heard the concerns from residents in his ward living near the Sheldon Chumir supervised consumption site, and now he’s calling on the city to take action to quell social disorder in the area.

In a release sent out Tuesday, Woolley said the increase in crime and social disorder could be attributed to the supervised consumption site (SCS), but also to increased methamphetamine consumption, and an increase of drug dealing near the SCS.

Woolley referred to a report from CPS which appears to confirm the concerns with hard data.

When compared with the entire city, which has seen no uptick in complaints about social disorder over the past three years, the 250 metre area around the SCS jumped 29 per cent in 2018, when compared to the three-year average.

“We have a report that’s come out today that validates some of those concerns,” said Woolley. “We stood when we opened the facility and made a commitment to keep the neighbourhood safe.”

He said the SCS is an important pillar in the fight against addiction, but he notes it won’t work if it isn’t supported by the people who work and live in the area.

He also said that the sudden rise in methamphetamine use is at least partially to blame of the increase of social disorder.

“The site was set up and the services were set up for opioids, which was literally to save people’s lives,” said Woolley. “In the last number of months we have seen significant increases in methamphetamine consumption that’s a result of the drop in price of methamphetamine.”

He noted that people cannot smoke substances in the safe consumption site, which is how methamphetamines are generally taken on the street. That means people are using them in the immediate vicinity.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi agreed that meth is big part of the problem. He noted that in tracking numbers around the site, some months had not shown an increase in social disorder, but the past few months have spiked.

“Let me be very rational about this,” said the mayor. “Meth keeps you awake. Meth helps you stay warm. So if you don’t feel safe on the streets, it’s almost a rational response to use something to help you get through the night. But it also makes you unpredictable. It makes you very, very sick, and it increases violence and petty theft.”

In late July, Nenshi brought forward a plan to set aside $25 million over five years for crime prevention and supports for mental health and addiction. He said any plan to deal with immediate concerns cannot sacrifice the need to work on that long term strategy.

“It’s important for us to understand that the real answer is that long term strategy – and an over reaction to 2-3 months of data is not what you want to do,” said Nenshi. “On the other hand, ignoring those two or three months of data and allowing those trends to go in the wrong direction is also a problem.”

Woolley suggested option on the table would include providing more funding to the Calgary police Service.

He said he’s looking forward to talking with CPS about how police resources will be deployed to deal with the problem.

“Job number one is presence. Whether you’re talking about Alberta Health Services Support workers, whether you’re talking about police,[…] we need to put more resources and presence on the streets right now.”

Alberta’s Health Minister Sarah Hoffman responded Tuesday afternoon via Twitter.

She noted that more than 800 lives had been saved to this point at the SCS since its opening.

“We’re supporting safety around the area as well. We’ll be providing $200K to support a new @alphahouseyyc team focusing on downtown crime intervention, transportation for those struggling with substance use & assisting with needle pickup,” she tweeted.

“We’ve also provided funding to support additional needle debris collection and proactive sweeps in the community. “

Woolley has prepared an emergency notice of motion that will include a 12-point action plan.

The items include:

1. An expanded Downtown Outreach Addiction Partnership (DOAP) Program dedicated to the Beltline

2. Additional onsite psychologists and psychiatrists that specialize in addictions and mental health within SCS Facility

3. Development of comprehensive treatment strategies associated with the SCS Facility

4. Review of operations at the SCS Facility to address intake and outpatient optimization

5. Increase mobile AHS support staff to allow for better monitoring in and around the SCS Facility

6. Creation of a Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) Improvement Fund with a terms of reference

7. Resources to support the Beltline Neighbourhood Association, 4th Street Business Improvement Area, and Victoria Park Business Improvement Area in order to incentivize community-driven programming at Central Memorial Park and other potential community space in the vicinity

8. Review of needle box locations

9. Implementation. of daily needle debris clean-ups within a 250 metre radius of the SCS Facility

10. Increased Corporate Security at City-owned properties within a 400 metre radius around SCS Facility

11. Implement increased security surveillance at Central Memorial Park

12. Engagement at the SCS Community Liaison Committee on the topic of a permanent and centralized police presence in the Centre City

It will be up to council to decided if it wants to support the proposed measures at the upcoming meeting set for Feb. 3.