Red Deer’s top cop says the downtown is where police have the most concentrated resources to deal with homeless-shelter-related issues.
When asked by city councillor Buck Buchanan on Monday,“From the RCMP’s position, where would be a good place for the shelter?” Supt. Gerald Grobmeier responded by saying he doesn’t have an opinion on where the shelter goes.
“But we have significantly more resources in the downtown than any other area,” Grobmeier added.
Red Deer city council ordered Safe Harbour to find a location outside the downtown for the temporary shelter recently after hearing business owners’ concerns about litter, loitering and other addictions-related issues.
Industrial parks were discussed as possible shelter locations after 25 downtown businesses objected to the shelter continuing at the Cannery Row Bingo site until a permanent shelter is built in two to three years time.
Safe Harbour has since asked city council to reconsider.
Mayor Tara Veer said a special council meeting will be held Thursday to discuss some supplementary information about the shelter location that is being provided by city administration, as well as feedback received from Safe Harbour and the community.
According to Grobmeier’s annual police report, presented to council on Monday, Red Deer RCMP’s designated downtown police unit — which is soon to gain two cross-trained Peace officers to help deal with minor crimes — is making headway by connecting with local businesses and dealing with problems in the city’s core.
Social disruption cases handled by police rose by nine per cent, said Grobmeier, due to more proactive police work in the downtown.
Council also heard the downtown RCMP unit laid 470 criminal charges, issued 722 tickets for violations, and made 501 arrests in the last year. Grobmeier said 680 “self-generated” police files were completed — meaning these files stemmed, not from public complaints, but from what officers saw or heard while patrolling the streets.
Grobmeier praised the new Social Diversion Team, which was started in January to reduce stress on police by handling non-criminal disturbance calls.
He noted more than 125 calls were handled by the social workers on this team in February and March, saving police resources for other matters, such as crime prevention, and information sessions with community partners. (Statistics presented in the RCMP report included calls made through the RCMP, but did not include calls made to the Social Diversion Team through other sources).
Local doctors, who were shocked and horrified by the killing of Dr. Walter Reynolds in August, attended police information sessions to find out how they can protect themselves and their staff from potential violent clients, said Grobmeier.
The police advice includes tips on office design as well as ensuring that bags that could conceal weapons are not brought into examination rooms.
A study of domestic violence cases over the pandemic showed little difference from the previous year, he added, with cases of sexual assault and aggravated assault actually dropping slightly.
However, assault with a weapon cases went up a bit, and there was an appreciable increase in threats — which almost doubled.
Grobmeier told council that the pandemic has presented challenges for RCMP officers who have sometimes inadvertently come into close contact with people with COVID, and then had to isolate. “I had to send home 14 officers in the last two days,” he said.
However, Red Deer RCMP is well enough staffed that other police officers have been able to fill in where needed.
Grobmeier said the local RCMP received 147 COVID-19 related complaints, and officers issued 22 violation notices since the pandemic started. Most of these were handled by raising public awareness about pandemic protocols.
According to the report’s objectives, Red Deer RCMP aims to reduce property crimes by seven per cent by the end of 2022, clear four per cent more of these crimes, and boost drug trafficking charges by five per cent.