The old platitude states that “the first step to recovery is to finally admit that there is a problem.”
There is no surprise that Red Deer is, once again, near the top of the list of crime-saturated cities in Canada. The truth is painfully obvious to anyone who dares open his/her eyes.
Our media repeatedly reports (boasts?) about the latest spree of robberies, drug issues and the need for more police presence. Nobody is actually shocked. Why pretend otherwise?
I look out of my downtown office window and regularly see a fellow making good use of his crack pipe.
There’s a bench not far away where, all summer long, a small group of men and women sit and crush beers until they are incoherent and ask to use our bathroom, utterly secure in the fact that they will never be held accountable.
I had a fellow come into my waiting room, pass out, urinate on the chair, and require EMS after the police initially refused to come remove him. They let this fellow (who has a history of wielding needles) walk away after rousing him from his drug-addled stupour.
Not an hour later, this man smashed windows at a nearby business in a robbery attempt and was finally arrested. Too bad for the business that now has the cost of replacing its windows, I guess.
If only there had been some warning that this person shouldn’t have been wandering the streets? Hmmm, does this sound like common sense to anybody?
I have a dozen more stories that should make the RCMP blush and alert your good readers that things are amiss. Red Deer, as an entity, has sat there and watched crime spiral out of control.
Little by little, Red Deer watched drugs and transience infect the downtown core. Little by little, Red Deer accepted that vehicular vandalism and petty property crime was just the nature of life’s ennui.
Heck, even the pay parking system downtown promotes an element of shenanigans — one where the commissioners regularly turn a blind eye to vehicles that are parked at the two-hour-only meters for a full eight.
When even the task of parking has become a corrupt fiasco, you know that the infestation runs deep, indeed.
As you read this, ask yourself: how safe do I really feel here day to day? The problem is that the City of Red Deer refuses to accept that it is no longer managing a small city.
We service more than 400,000 people from 70 kilometres in every direction here, from hospitals to shopping options — and yes, to criminals.
Instead of accepting this reality, we continue to persist in the delusions of a small town mentality, a mentality that is utterly unsatisfactory in every way.
We must embrace the truth that our Prairie world has become far more complicated than it was in the 1980s and we must continue to develop in a way that embraces the future instead of desperately clutching onto our past.
At some point, Red Deer just needs to be better, hold itself to a higher standard, and address the issues that have plagued the city for many years.
As it stands now, Red Deer just isn’t that great a place to live and it isn’t safe. Accept it. Fix it.
David Gibbons is a Red Deer resident who works downtown.