By Kalinowski, Tim on January 16, 2020.
The Lethbridge Police Service’s new Crime Suppression Team hit the streets on Wednesday for this first time, and Chief Scott Woods is eager to see results as six veteran officers prepare to go after certain criminal behaviours largely associated with the drug trade in a more proactive, intelligence-led and targeted way.
“They are going to be targeting the unwanted behaviours we have seen in Lethbridge for a substantial period of time,” says Woods. “One of the top stories for Lethbridge in 2019, if not the top story, was a lot of the issues we are seeing with spin-off crime as a result of the drug crisis. The team was formed to target the behaviours we see within our community, specific to violence, assaults, thefts – and we have seen a drastic increase in commercial break and enters and other unwanted behaviours within certain areas of the city where we have seen a spike in these activities.”
The CST will use both covert and overt methods to also target repeat offenders who engage in these negative behaviours.
“As you know, uniforms and marked police cars have an effect of deterrence, too, but ultimately as we drive by we don’t just want people hiding around a corner or stopping the behaviour,| explains Woods. “There are some covert things we need to do to get to the root of the problem, and this unit will use both (covert and overt policing) to really drill down and deal with the issues we are seeing in the community.”
The six positions are internally funded and Woods has had to pull officers from other areas of the police service to activate the CST.
“There is going to be some reductions in some of our service in certain areas,” Woods admits, “but not on the frontline.”
Woods acknowledged one position was pulled out of the School Resource Officer Program, as an example. But to limit the disruption of pulling these resources within the service, Woods has also decided to deploy a six-man CST unit instead of the eight he originally proposed and hope for further funding from city council to fill out the rest of the eight positions next September when budget discussions arise.
He says there was no shortage of applicants from within the LPS to fill those six positions, with 25 officers applying.
“We had a lot of officers wanting to be a part of this team so there was a selection process with that which trimmed it down to the numbers we’re at,” he explains.
Woods is also encouraging anyone who is interested to follow the Crime Suppression Team on Twitter and keep up with their work @LethbridgeCST.
“I think we will see some good short-term success with it, and hopefully some good long-term success with it as well,” he states. “This is not going to be the end all, be all to solve everything – there’s lots of things going on in the community and this is just one piece of it.”
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter