October 20th, 2020

LPS downtown programs making a difference


By Kuhl, Nick on December 5, 2019.

Chief Scott Woods speaks to reporters after the Lethbridge Police Service presentation to the Community Issues Committee meeting this week at City Hall. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Nick Kuhl

Lethbridge Herald

nkuhl@lethbridgeherald.com

The Watch, the Community Peace Officers (CPOs), and the Police and Crisis Team (PACT) are making a difference in the city, says the Lethbridge Police Chief.

“As we move forward with our plans with council here in the next couple of weeks, we’re very hopeful they’re all going to mesh well together with our plan going forward to truly start seeing a difference in the downtown and other areas within the city that we’re having some problems with,” said LPS Chief Scott Woods, as part of a quarterly report to Lethbridge City Council at the Community Issues Committee meeting Monday at city hall.

As part of council approving funding for The Watch, CPOs and PACT in the 2019-22 Lethbridge Police Service budget, it was directed that LPS must report quarterly on the operational progress and financial status of each program. On Monday, Woods, Peter Deys, chair of Lethbridge Police Commission, Russell Lawrence, Inspector of Support Services Division, and Mark Smallbones, A/Inspector of Field Operations Division, discussed each of them in detail.

The Watch, with an annual taxation price of $554,272, has extended postings and a recruiting strategy for new hires in January with a goal of hiring 11 part-time or full-time leads to alleviate scheduling and staffing demands. LPS also wants to increase advertising for SAFE WALK through media, social media and community contacts.

“I think The Watch itself has been really good for both the police service and the community, just getting out there,” Woods said.

The CPOs, with annual funding of $1,660,500 through taxation, LPS and an MRSR one-time allocation, are staffed with nine members. There is a timeline in place for recruiting and hiring a full complement 15 CPOs, Woods says.

“I’m very optimistic going forward that they will make a difference,” he said. “The important thing is we need to get to that staffing level, to have them out doing what we need them to do. Then be able to assess exactly what they’re doing from a statistic standpoint, in addition to what the community’s thoughts are.”

The PACT, at a cost of $124,000 through taxation, is comprised of one police constable and one Alberta Health Services mental health professional.

They stabilize individuals experiencing addictions and/or mental health issues by referring them to appropriate resources in the community. Woods says the goal is to continue collaboration and consultation with all partners and search for opportunities to develop new partnerships, as well as increase PACT’s front-line response during crisis and increase staffing to address gaps in service and to respond in a more timely fashion as LPS is responding to more mental health related calls every day.

“We have to have some of these programs in place to try to reduce some of the time and resources on that,” Woods said. “Two individuals is limited. We’ve seen some positive responses coming from that. But ultimately we’d like to have some more people dealing with that.”

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Citi Zen

Kudos to the LPS for their downtown efforts. But putting more boots on the ground downtown will only serve to push the criminal element out into the suburbs, as has been the case in other cities. The real solution is to get them off the streets indefinitely. ..sooner rather than later.

ewingbt

First, I applaud the Watch, who face abuse daily by negative users and they are a ‘hands off’ organization, the new Peace Officers, and the officers that face the endless dealings with addicts that are agressive and often have weapons. These people have been putting a considerable amount of time and effort into our crisis and they are not the ones to be blamed for what is happening.

Second, the leadership of our city are the ones that allowed this to race out of control saying ‘we are not going to arrest our way out of this’ or ‘once the SCS opens it will be better’ . . . you remember all those comments! Well things didn’t change and they got worse and now we are interantionally as an infamous city!
And when legitimate complaints were voiced to the leadership of this city we accused of planting evidence, faking needles and fearmongering, while nothing was been done to prevent the addicts from deficating, urinating, overdosing, injecting openly downtown. Those are the reasons people don’t like to come downtown, real fear of the crime and addicts.

The Lethbridge Public Library, Main branch downtown has been a hotbed of hookers, dealers, users, John’s yet not much has been done to clean it up and the issues continue there. Last night 8 police vehicles raced there around 7:40 pm loud and fast, usually that kind of response is used in high importance responses such as weapons involved or threat of life. It was fast and all arrived within minutes. Later in the news found out it was because EMS had responded to an apparent overdose, but when looking of the person was surrounded by threatening FN group.
Yet our leadership has put 3 dedicated Commissionaires there to face the major issues, and their role cannot resolve the problem . . . Nothing to see here! Right? . . . I would never send my grand-kids anywhere near there and when my membership ended, I refused to renew it on the grounds it was over-run wtih criminals/addicts.

Our leadership has failed us and I am trying to hold out hope this A/Police Chief will stand up for the citizens of this city, but I wonder just how much influence is coming from the Mayor?

Unfortunately the same people are still out there committing the crimes, they have only shuffled to other areas or. as I have watched, move along when signal by a whistle from one of their look-outs or seeing a patrol walking towards them.

Treating addicts and treating those with psyh issues is the ony way to get our streets back, not giving them a place to do any drug they want in a social gathering type area like a bar at the SCS. Stop enabling users!

If they are not using they are not committing the crimes to pay for the drugs or selling their bodies!

Is that so difficult to get . . . we had smokescreens put up to push this agenda of enabling users, but if you look at other areas where they have been for years, they problems have only got worse and ripplied into many other areas.

We really need leadership that stands up for the citizens of this city as whole, not a few addicts that are destroying our city, businesses, neighbourhoods and image internationally. I can’t see that with this leadership!

If you are not happy, write Council and let them know, write your MLA and write your MP. It is the only way we will get our streets back.