January 20th, 2021

SCS study paints picture of social disorder downtown

By Lethbridge Herald on January 20, 2020.

Dr. Em Pijl from the University of Lethbridge Health Sciences, shares the findings at the Community Issues Committee meeting from a 13-month study of zones around the supervised consumption site which showed a marked increase in anti-social behaviour. Herald photo by Greg Bobinec @GBobinecHerald

Study also shows Downtown Clean and Safe Strategy is working

Tim Kalinowski
Lethbridge Herald
A 13-month study commissioned by city council on the social impacts of the supervised consumption site validated many of the concerns people have expressed about increasing social disorder and anti-social behaviour in the immediate area surrounding the site, but also validated the City of Lethbridge’s mitigation strategy to help local businesses deal with some of these effects.
“When we knew consumption services were first coming to Lethbridge, a literature review was done,” explained City of Lethbridge Urban Revitalization manager Andrew Malcolm, who co-presented with U of L researcher Em Pijl during Monday’s Community Issues Committee meeting. “And in that review, it identified that there were very few impacts to (opening) this type of thing. But the studies all related to Vancouver, Sydney … and other major cities. We weren’t comfortable with that. We figured the City of Lethbridge being a small to mid-sized city would have different implications, which is why we initiated the study before the consumption site opened. In hindsight, that was a great decision by the City of Lethbridge as well as the Heart of Our City Committee — because now we do have a baseline.”
The study ran between January 2018 and February 2019, but took longer to compile than previously expected because some of the data sets requested by researchers were not made available to them despite repeated requests. The Lethbridge Police Service, in particular, was singled out by lead researcher Pijl for not providing the crime data in the area of the SCS she needed to complete her comparison between what was heard and seen in her survey and actual crime statistics over the observation period.
However, stated Pijl, the picture her research painted was clear.
“Overall, it paints a picture we have social disorder in our downtown,” explained Pijl, summarizing her findings. “It was a longitudinal study over 13 months, and explored the perceptions and observations of people who run businesses in the downtown areas of Lethbridge. And it basically showed there is increasing anti-social behaviour and social disorder related primarily to the drug crisis that is happening, and other lacks of services we are experiencing.”
“In the 100-metre-zone around the site there is a concentration of people who are coming for services because prior to that this was a commercial area,” she added, “there were some bars in the area; so any activity we see would be at night related to alcohol. With the site, we have a group of disenfranchised people with rather complex needs coming to the area for service and wrap-around services. They come there for housing help. They come for social services, health care, and also substance use that is safe so they don’t overdose and die.”
Malcolm said having the baseline study completed using academic research methods and cross-checked with an actual data-set would pay dividends for the City’s drug strategy and advocacy efforts going forward.
“To make decisions purely on what people just feel is always challenging,” he said. “For us, it’s nice to have a statistical, arms-length report from the University of Lethbridge to justify that. It is nice to know what people are talking about in the community is, in fact, what we’re seeing through the report. For us, it validates it and allows us to make very measured decisions going foward.”
He admitted it might be frustrating to some community members and council members there was no “silver bullet” coming out of the study, but it did validate what the City’s Downtown Clean and Safe Strategy is trying to do in response to the drug crisis, he said.
“For us, it confirms and gives us the ability to look at what the area was dealing with before the consumption site was added, some of the things that happened as that consumption site ramped up, and the year from the date of opening where we are from a community perspective,” Malcolm confirmed. “And what that allows us to do is have a baseline. So that as we initiate new mitigation methods from the Clean Sweep Program, Diversion Outreach Team and some of the other things funded from Downtown Clean and Safe Strategy, we are able to see whether or not they are impacting in a positive manner the environment around the consumption site.”
From her discussions with business owners around the SCS, stated Pijl, the Downtown Clean and Safe Strategy appears to be “money well spent” by city council.
“The respondents in the study were very pleased particulary with ARCHES programs like the COPE Team, and programs like DOT from CMHA,” she explained. “And the needle retrieval and needle pickup program, they are very pleased with that, and that’s across the city — people very much value that service.”
Pijl said her report also highlights the huge gap in services Lethbridge has when it comes to dealing with the secondary effects of the drug crisis.
“We need more services, and we are not funded at the same rate as other cities in Alberta,” she concluded. “We seem to have big-city problems, and if you use substances there are very few places to go where you can access things like detox, rehab and all these things.
“There is a long laundry list of things we need, and it may even get worse.”
The full report is available on the City of Lethbridge website, and is also enclosed in the CIC agenda package from Monday’s meeting.
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter

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“We need more services, and we are not funded at the same rate as other cities in Alberta…”

Our government in power MLA is very much MIA on this file.

George McCrea

So is the one who got it here. Oh wait
She is immune as she supports this
Site 100%


More services???? Seriously, you state that you studied Vancouver! Mr. Andrew Malcolm, how could you miss all the negative impacts in the Vancouver area when just a short dive into the issues I completed showed how devastating it has been!
You said:
“…..When we knew consumption services were first coming to Lethbridge, a literature review was done,” explained City of Lethbridge Urban Revitalization manager Andrew Malcolm, who co-presented with U of L researcher Em Pijl during Monday’s Community Issues Committee meeting. “And in that review, it identified that there were very few impacts to (opening) this type of thing. But the studies all related to Vancouver, Sydney … “…

The Vancouver DTES is the best example why not to open a safe consumption site. IT FAILED !!!
How can you say it is a success when the safe sites were opened in 2003 and when the crisis hit in 2014, with all the services in place, it had no impact. Fatal overdoses continue to rise, the number of addicts, homeless, criminal acts all continue to rise and the greater Vancouver DTES with about 20,000 people has 260 social and housing services costing $360 million per year. 50 % of the people are transient, from across Canada and SFU studies show that in fact all of the services ATTRACT the addicts. What part of that did you not understand when you thought it would be different in Lethbridge! How can you pay for someone professionally to find important and critical information to make valued decisions and they miss they high costs and the failure in the injection sites there??
The SCS needs to be shut down and the addicts forced into treatment just like they do in the US in the southeast . . . it works!
Stop pumping milions into compensative programs that support addicts to continue committing crimes to pay for their drugs they do at the SCS and put those funds into EFFECTIVE treatment!


A feed bear is a dead bear.


And the great NDP still doesn\t recognize the damage the SCS has done to this community!
Her quotes from this CBC news report:

“….Lethbridge NDP MLA Shannon Phillips said closing the site in her city would be devastating.
“People would die,” Phillips said.
People don’t go away just because the premier has an ideological flight of fancy.​​
– Lethbridge NDP MLA Shannon Phillips
“I live downtown, and before that supervised consumption site we often had overdoses in alleys and elsewhere. Hundreds of lives have been saved by that supervised consumption site.”
Phillips said disruption to the surrounding community would be much worse if the consumption site were shuttered…..”

When a politician doesn’t respect and protect the citizens of the whole community and make decisions for the community as a whole, they need to leave . . .bye bye Shannon Phillips and the NDP who have destroyed our city.

I also live downtown and still watch people overdosing where I live, several blocks from the SCS. What about the hookers on the street selling their bodies and picking up diseases to pay for their addiction and their pimps/handlers addictions. 3 have died from overdoses downtown in the last year! What about all of them that commit suicide because of the hopelessness they find themselves in, and all of the ones that die from the homeless or addiction related diseases tthat are not counted in the stats!
The peoples businesses that have been devastated and the high costs of security in the core. The mother who goes out to put her baby in a stroller but some addict has stolen it, or the little kid that goes out to ride their bike but some addict has stolen it.

I often work in the downtown, not just live here, in the ‘hood’ and our area is still impacted by the same issues that plagued us before, only the numbers have increased. The only thing that has changed is the number of needles found, I will admit that in my area there area less, but there are more in other parts of the city!

People are dying because the site is enabling them to continue pumping that poison into their bodies.

The excuse is that when they bring the into the site, they have a chance to talk to them about getting clean . . . that is not working very well since all of your stats and numbers are increasing, in numbers.
The number of users continues to increase dramatically, along with the homelessness and the crime that is committed to pay for the drugs that are killing them. Enabling does nothing but slowly kill them!

Effective treatment is the answer! People will die either way and in BC where the sites have been open since 2003, almost 70% of the fatal overdoses are in the addicts residence!

The average person is not going to out partying and someone brings in some meth or opioids and they say, lets all go all the way downtown to do the drugs and then come back to party . . .

The site needs to be closed and fighting to get accurate stats on demographics is like trying to get national defense operational intelligence details, proven at one council meeting when over paid Stacey Bouque refused to answer a question on the site! This site has no real taxpayer oversight, as many of us have found when we dig deeper, locally, provincially, federally.

Shut it down and put the money into ‘effective treatment’ and get these addicts off the streets and a life that won’t kill them within 5 years!