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Calgary’s downtown sheriff pilot is making a difference, says the province

The Government of Alberta released data surrounding the efficacy of the 12-week Alberta Sheriff patrol program pilot on Thursday, with claims that it is making a difference to crime levels in Calgary’s inner city.

The update was the first major one indicating the effect of the program on suppressing crime and social disorder in downtown Calgary, following the pilot’s start on Feb. 28.

The program paired Calgary Police Service officers with 12 Alberta Sheriffs to patrol the downtown.

The province said that as of April 22, the first 54 days of the pilot, those teams have responded to over 1,600 calls for service. Of those calls, 1,200 were proactively initiated by officers, said the province.

“I am pleased to see Alberta Sheriffs have hit the ground running with their CPS partners to improve the safety of people who live in Calgary’s downtown core, work there or visit to shop and dine out,” said Mike Ellis, Alberta’s Minister for Public Safety in a media release made on Thursday.

“This shows that having more boots on the ground patrolling the streets makes a difference, as law enforcement officers can immediately step in to stop illegal activity as it’s happening.”

The province said that officers have laid 109 charges, and executed 1,524 outstanding warrants against accused individuals during the same time period.

The teams, said the province, have also assisted vulnerable individuals to local shelters and social agencies. They connected 23 people in March to shelters and 31 individuals who were openly using drugs to social service agencies.

The pilot program is planned to end of May 31, with a post-pilot review by CPS and the Alberta Sheriffs as to whether the program will continue.

Social disorder in downtown communities rose in March from February

Calgary Police Chief Constable Mark Neufeld said that the addition of the Sheriffs had been a welcome one for the service.

“We have heard many reports of officers being thanked by citizens for their presence and ongoing work to establish safe public spaces within our core,” he said.

That sentiment was echoed by Alberta Sheriffs Chief Farooq Sheikh.

“Every Alberta Sheriff signs up to help protect Albertans, whether they live in a small town or a big city like Calgary. I’m proud of the work we have done for this community so far, and I look forward to even more successes in the coming weeks,” Sheikh said.

According to data released by the Calgary Police Service for 2023, calls for social disorder rose in the Downtown Core, West End, East Village, Chinatown, and the Beltline from February to March, going from 1,033 to 1,215.

Similar rises in calls have been shown in the data between February and March for all previous years going back to 2018.

Calls for violence and assaults have remained relatively steady, and relatively rare. Both the Beltline and the Downtown Core saw slightly more than 25 assaults and less than 10 calls for violence. The East Village saw the only decrease in assaults from February to March, down to 14 from 18.

Overall, the number of crimes for the five communities increased, going from 180 non-social disorder related calls, to 199.

The province promoted the work done on specific incidents that occurred to date during the pilot in addressing drug crime in the downtown.

They said they were able to arrest individuals who were in possession of fentanyl and methamphetamines for dealing near the Drop-in Centre, on Stephen Avenue, and at LRT stations.