Dozens of Red Deer residents turned out Monday to discuss the city’s crime problems and how to fix them.
The first of six public meetings on crime and community safety drew about 50 people to the Northside Community Centre, where they gathered at tables to share their views on the pressing issues facing the city.
After a 2o-minute brainstorming session led by City of Red Deer facilitators, residents’ concerns were grouped into five main categories: justice and enforcement, property crime, feelings of personal safety, addictions and substance abuse, and homelessness.
Attendees were encouraged to come up with specific actions that could be taken to address those challenges, either immediately or at least in the next six months.
City manager Allan Seabrooke said the public meetings are only part of the effort to address crime and community safety, issues that have topped residents’, the city’s and council’s priorities for some time.
“We can’t wait for shelter spaces. We can’t wait for treatment centres,” he told the crowd in his opening remarks.
“We can’t wait any longer. We need immediate action.
“We have heard what you have been saying. Council has heard what you have been saying.”
Peter and Rashel McGee brought their seven-month-old daughter Mira to the meeting.
“Basically, I think having a child has changed my perspective on my involvement in the community and continuing to make sure we’re leaving something better for her,” said Peter.
Growing up in Georgetown, Ont., which has a population of about 42,000 today, there was not the same sort of community concerns about crime and safety, he said, and he’d like his daughter to grow up in a similar environment.
His family lives in the Pines neighbourhood and they like that it is so close to the woods and green spaces. However, there is a lot of activity there that makes his wife leery of walking alone through the area at times.
Nancy Bain works at Red Deer’s downtown immigrant centre and is a regular user of the library. It upsets her that friends talk about how they don’t feel safe downtown and avoid the city core.
“I just think that’s such a shame,” said Bain. “I think downtown is kind of the soul of the city.”
More police are not the answer to fixing all of the city’s crime problems. Citizens play an important role, even by doing such simple things as removing garage door openers, car registrations and other documents that pinpoint a person’s home from vehicles.
City Coun. Lawrence Lee said the public meetings are about “getting down to the roots” of what the community sees as the major issues confronting the city.
Lee was encouraged to see how different groups were bringing different perspectives to what they saw as the top priorities, which will be helpful as the city looks for solutions and concrete actions.
He was pleased at the turnout, especially for a Monday afternoon session when many are at work.
“I think this is a great start,” he said, adding he hoped participants encouraged friends and neighbours to take part in future sessions.
The next meetings take place on:
• Nov. 5 — 10 a.m., Red Deer College in the Four Centres Building
• Nov. 6 — 6 p.m. Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School cafeteria
• Nov. 7 — 6 p.m., Eastview Middle School gymnasium
• Nov. 13 — 6 p.m., St. Francis of Assisi Middle School gymnasium
• Nov. 15 — 10 a.m., Radisson Hotel, 6500 67th St.