City council adopts community safety strategy

Councillors see a holistic plan focusing on education, prevention, intervention and enforcement

Red Deer now has a community safety strategy supported by a majority of city councillors who see it as a holistic plan that focuses on education, prevention, intervention and enforcement.

But a few councillors say the strategy missed the mark.

“If I were a citizen reading the report, I don’t get a comfortable feeling that we’re changing anything right now,” said Coun. Dianne Wyntjes who voted against the strategy.

“We’ve faced crime in our community for years, and years, and years and continue to do so. So for me to have a more clearer map in my mind is important.”

On Tuesday, city council voted 7-2 in favour of adopting the strategy as a planning tool and directed administration to develop an implementation plan for council’s consideration.

Two years ago council established the Community Safety Ad-Hoc Committee to develop the strategy.

The strategy includes establishing a leadership body that brings together partners such as the RCMP, the city, and those working in the departments of health, justice, education, human services to build on existing efforts to enhance community safety. It also calls for a collaborative network of front-line agencies.

Some other recommendations include educating the public on the shared responsibility for community safety; committing funding for research and analysis of data; dedicating resources to community safety in the downtown and exploring a more visible police presence in the downtown; and continuing current initiatives that support and strengthen families and neighbourhoods.

Wyntjes said she was not satisfied that so many details still need to be fleshed out and that the cost to implement the strategy was unknown.

The safety committee recommended the city provide two staff members to get the leadership body off the ground and that strategy funding be sought from sources like government or the community.

“What do you want us to do and how much is it going to cost us. I see funding as a first step,” she said.

Coun. Buck Buchanan, who also voted against the strategy, said it took 15 years to get the Central Alberta Crime Prevention Centre and the centre should take the lead in community safety.

He said many of the ideas in the strategy have been done like working on downtown safety, social issues and collaboration.

“The plan I think is very valid, but it’s not new, revolutionary stuff. We’ve done a lot of this stuff. We’ve tried a lot of this stuff. Right now what has been working has been the Crime Prevention Centre,” Buchanan said.

Coun. Ken Johnston, city council’s representative on the safety committee, called the strategy a “transformative, collaborative, multi-sectoral approach to community safety.”

“Today we spend plus or minus $30 million on an enforcement strategy that is not sustainable. We cannot police our way out,” Johnston said.

Coun. Lynne Mulder said the strategy is a good jumping off point.

“I don’t think we can wait until every duck is in a row or we’re never going to get where we’re going,” Mulder said.

Coun. Tanya Handley said the strategy recognized the need to strengthen and support families and provided a way for agencies to come together to catch kids before they fall through the cracks.

Mayor Tara Veer said the city has already focused on enforcement priorities and crime prevention, but more has to be done.

“This report adopts a more holistic approach to community safety. It places value on prevention, education, intervention as well as enforcement. But it also makes sure that the left arm and the right arm work in tandem with each other instead of in competition with each other or function in their respective silos,” Veer said.

She said council’s governance and policy committee would hopefully have preliminary discussions on the implementation plan in December or January. Budget allocations for the community safety strategy may be available in January for council to consider.

“We have a responsibility to move forward on safety, but we need to consider it in the context of all of the other requests before city council.”