My Thoughts on Safer Public Spaces
Following the announcement of an approach to keep violent offenders, repeat offenders, and people trafficking drugs off our streets.
Criminal activity and disorder affect us all. It changes how we feel in our neighbourhoods and communities, it is a heavy burden on businesses, and it hurts our ability to attract investment and tourism.
We got to this crisis through decades of neglect and underinvestment, and it will take a long-term commitment from all of us to turn the tide. We need social supports like housing, mental health and addictions recovery.
So many of you reach out to City Council to tell us how this crisis is negatively affecting your family, your neighbours, your businesses and Edmonton’s most vulnerable who are struggling with houselessness and addictions illness. Through the recent engagement that our City conducted, we heard from you that you are concerned about visible drug use in public spaces. Everyone here agrees that the status quo is simply not working and things must change. We need to stabilize the situation.
That is why I am here to support the Government of Alberta and Edmonton Police Service’s safer public spaces approach. The goal of this approach is to keep violent offenders, repeat offenders, and people trafficking drugs off our streets to make our public spaces safer for all including those who are most vulnerable to this criminal activity. We will not tolerate organized crime operating in our city. The people who commit these violent crimes need to be held accountable.
I’m pleased to hear that Minister Amery is building special prosecution units in both Edmonton and Calgary. These special units will help ensure that our justice system is becoming more responsive and coordinated. I have been calling for such coordination to occur ever since I got elected.
We know that congregating and using drugs in public spaces is unsafe for people who use drugs and creates conditions where these vulnerable individuals may be preyed upon. It also harms the vibrancy and safety of public spaces and important business districts.
I want to thank the frontline members of the Edmonton Police Service who work hard to keep Edmontonians safe. The success of this initiative will rest with these officers who work in our communities every day. I know that your job is incredibly difficult and your hard work does not go unnoticed. I trust that this situation will be handled with professionalism and compassion as you embark on this work.
I also want to thank the Government of Alberta. My office and I have been working hard to build a collaborative relationship with them to make our community safer for all. I feel that the Government of Alberta is making concerted efforts to understand the unique challenges that Edmonton is facing. We have compiled a list of immediate, medium and long-term actions to enhance safety and well-being. We have shared that list with the Government of Alberta.
While I’m here today to support the safer public spaces approach, I am keenly aware that the situation we are facing today is a symptom of a bigger problem. Part of the discussions leading up to today’s announcement with all of the parties up here has been to take immediate action to stabilize the situation as we continue to build the social infrastructure and services that are necessary to implement long-term solutions to tackle the root causes.
As this new approach is implemented, I hope that EPS will monitor and evaluate its success and identify any gaps that become evident. While today’s announcement is an important step, I know that it will not solve all of our problems until the root causes are dealt with. While stabilization is necessary, I assure you that I will keep working together with our partners on the long-term solutions, including permanent supportive housing, harm reduction and a full spectrum of resources to support treatment and recovery.