Red Deer’s chief of police is confident that new strategies to combat problems related to crime in downtown Red Deer are making a difference.
RCMP Supt. Scott Tod said on Wednesday that he measures that belief on two things: complaints from the public and businesses are decreasing, and marginalized citizens are telling officers that things are better.
One of the first things he was made aware of when he arrived in Red Deer nine months ago was concern about downtown Red Deer.
“There was some lead-up time for myself being new here to not just listen to those complaints but to find out what had we done in the past and make sure that our resourcing and our own internal structure was aligned to start addressing that.
“I made some changes and restructured a few units and gave them a different mandate. That takes some time but I think the community response team, with the support of the uniformed members, and ALERT, and my plainclothes members, collectively have had a positive impact downtown.”
Tod said Red Deer City RCMP increased enforcement, visibility and interaction in the downtown.
“It’s a crime reduction strategy initiated specific to the downtown core to address the needs that were made very clear to me by the community, by business owners and mayor and council and the city manager, upon my arrival.
“The result has been that I’m certainly not getting as many downtown businesses and even just citizen complaints about what’s going on downtown. I haven’t been getting nearly as many as when I arrived in May.”
He also said “officers — who are downtown regularly and involved in this strategy — are hearing from the people downtown, those who are marginalized people, that things are a lot quieter downtown and that a lot of the troublemakers have decided to move on and are not in the downtown core as often or prevalently.
“Part of our role downtown is to protect those (marginalized) people too. They’re very easy victims.”
But the problems haven’t gone away by any means, he said.
“It’s quieter in terms of the drug dealing out in the open. Some of the violence and some of the people who are involved in that aren’t being seen because there’s been too much attention paid to them downtown.
“Certainly when you undertake these initiatives and these strategies there always will be displacement. That’s part of our job is to be alive to that … so we’re directed to where they’re going and sustain the presence and the enforcement and the relationship-building as these people displace and move on.”
He said enforcement is only one piece of the city’s strategy for the downtown core to be a healthy community.
“We need to also partner up for prevention and also look at what services are provided in what parts of the city. But those are city initiatives and it’s their decisions to make. We can only inform them as to what we’re seeing and what we’re doing and look for opportunities to partner with them.”
Council recently approved budgeting for six more police officers, plus support staff.
“We have an idea of where we are going to allocate the majority of those resources but things could change by the time those positions actually arrive and I don’t know when that will happen. Its a very complex staffing process. There could be a change of priorities within our community at that time. I have to … remain flexible to be able to resource our staffing levels to address those too,” Tod said.