East Calgary Ambassadors take home Alberta community safety prize

The team is a partnership between 12CSI and the International Avenue BRZ

12CSI Ambassador team on the job speaking to the owner of Jayson's Corner on 17 Avenue SE in Calgary on June 23, 2022. HAJAR AL KHOUZAII/ FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Seven days a week, the East Calgary Ambassador team keeps an eye on the neighbourhoods.

The program, developed by the 12 Community Safety Initiative (12CSI), recently received an Alberta Community Justice Award for its work.

The award is given to individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to preventing crime in their communities.

12CSI received an Alberta Community Justice Award for their work in June of 2022. From left to right, Carmen Poon, Larry Leach and Fernando Martinez at the 12CSI office in Calgary on June 23, 2022. HAJAR AL KHOUZAII/ FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

According to 12CSI executive director Larry Leach, the ambassador team has shown exceptional leadership, innovation and dedication to working and volunteering in community justice.

12CSI was created 13 years ago and consists of 12 communities in District Four of the Calgary police service.  They’re a crime prevention group that works with different organizations within the 12 communities.

“We started out working with a team of community associations and a couple of nonprofit organizations on a committee – Social Disorder Task Force – and through that process, we determined that we needed to take a bit of a leadership role and to try and help make things better on the (International) avenue,” said Leach.

The East Calgary Ambassador team was created a year ago to address area safety and social disorder.

The 12CSI ambassador team consists of three full-time employees, two on the street at any one time who work seven days a week, and a number of volunteers and practicum students.

Collaboration with local business

They work together with the International Avenue BRZ, the business group for 17 Avenue SE.

“The collaboration between International Avenue BRZ and  12CSI is almost the perfect marriage,” said Leach.

International Avenue BRZ executive director Alison Karim-McSwiney agreed.

“It’s also about partnerships and how we can work together. When we have issues, we sit down and solve them together,” said Karim-McSwiney.

12CSI executive director Larry Leach (left) and executive director of International Avenue BRZ and the chair of 12CSI, Alison Karim-McSwiney. PHOTO COURTESY 12CSI.

International Avenue is a vibrant business district with a diverse ethnic composition located on 17 Avenue SE, from 26 to 61 Street, in Calgary. There are roughly 400 businesses that take part.

According to Karim-McSwiney, the initiative is important because the ambassador team is forging relationships on the avenue.

“They’re out there all the time helping with any sort of issues that may have not been dealt with,” said Karim-McSwiney.

“Helping people with something as simple as finding a good restaurant or with finding someone with the language skills. Our ambassadors can connect with any one of our businesses who speak a variety of languages and help those people to find where they need to go.

 “They also help people who are vulnerable and try to get them into services and make sure that they’re safe.”

Challenges

Both Leach and Karim-McSwiney agreed that there may not be many challenges that face 12CSI, however, they urged members of the 12 communities to be more involved.

“To the people that live in these communities if you need volunteers and help, if you feel that your community association is not active, then get involved. Get active,” said Leach.

“You’re safer when you know the people in your community.”

According to Leach, working on 17 Avenue has its own positive perks.

“We chose this location because of the diversity, colour and flavour of many cultures,” he said.

“If somebody is somehow inspired by 12CSI or the East Calgary Ambassador Program and wants something like that in their community, reach out, and let us know. We’re happy to help,” said Leach.

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