May 21st, 2024

Community safety, crime reduction LPS priorities for 2022


By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on December 30, 2021.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh says the past year presented the Lethbridge Police Service an opportunity for reflection and a chance to set the course to a better future.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

For the Lethbridge Police Service, 2021 was a year of challenges that turned into opportunities to grow as a department.
“I truly believe this was a year that gave this department a lot of opportunities to have a true reflection on what is going on, and actually set the course to a much better future,” said Shahin Mehdizadeh, Lethbridge Police Service Chief.
Mehdizadeh said this is the year that for the first time they have implemented a crime reduction strategy, a meaningful crime reduction strategy, using comstat and database-driven policing to do their work
“We’re not just using resources for the sake of using them, we’re actually more focused on dealing with crime and how we’re handling certain things,” said Mehdizadeh.
Mehdizadeh said that community engagement was a tough task for them this year because of COVID, but they still managed to reach out to many community partners and key stakeholders, to make sure they continue to have the connection as COVID rules ease off in the future.
“One of the biggest challenges I had was I could not actually meet with as many citizens in a public forum as I wanted to because of the COVID,” said Mehdizadeh.
But he said that as those rules ease off he is looking forward to doing a lot of community town-hall, to reach out to citizens face to face, listen to them and also provide them with information about what the police service is doing.
“This was the year that we really took a true reflection because of the budget cut, how we can make ourselves more efficient in service delivery,” said Mehdizadeh.
He said they looked at where they could trim the fat as much as they could, even though there is not much fat to trim as the budget covers all salaries and benefits.
“Where we could actually trim the fat, we have done that, and looking at other opportunities in the future how we can save money and resources,” said Mehdizadeh.
Another area that was significant for LPS in 2021, was taking a critical look at their School Resource Officer program and developing a new program, the Youth Engagement Unit. This program provides more and better services to all the youth, not just youth that go to school in the community.
“Some adjustments were needed to make sure we have this program available to all the youth in the community, not all the youth go to school, and we have to be very realistic on that front,” said Mehdizadeh.
He said they had both school divisions in the loop and in their discussions, and this program is being supported by both school divisions which is critical as they are their key client group they need to serve.
“They also understood the importance of making sure we have presence not only during school year months, but twelve months of the year, so this program same as our drug unit, same as our robbery unit, are going to be working 12 months of the year on youth related issues to support the youth,” said Mehdizadeh.
He said that at times they have to look at enforcement actions and charges but those are always going to be last resort when they deal with youth.
“We’re trying to work with different agencies and partnerships to provide help to our youth, or get them out of their life of crime and the people who are on the verge of going into a life of crime, hoping to get them directed in a different path,” said Mehdizadeh.
He added that this was also the year they truly got engaged with the city’s community well-being and safety strategy.
“We have executives at different subgroups and the main group which I’m representing the department, to see how we can actually look at a holistic approach on dealing with crime helping people who need help and trying to make this city a safer place,” said Mehdizadeh.
Earlier this year the police department acquired two experienced Community Peace Officers, and Mehdizadeh said they have the experience to bring with them, which is looking at things from a different lens.
He added financially it is more cost effective for the department, as they so do not have to put experienced recruits through the training new people would have to go through.
“On all aspects we certainly welcome people with experience to join any program,” said Mehdizadeh.
When it comes to the homeless situation in Lethbridge, Mehdizadeh said it is something that will not be able to be solved overnight, but they will continue to monitor.
“Through the community well-being and safety initiatives that are going on, you may not see the problem fixed immediately or any changes, but I’m confident if these programs continue and work is done, the investment is going to be made in the community by many different levels of government,” said Mehdizadeh.
Mehdizadeh also wanted to recognize the work that The Watch has done in 2021. He said that many people have come forward to praise the program and he is impressed with the amount of youth engaged with the program.
“A lot of youth actually coming to volunteer, to actually get a really good perspective of what’s really going on in our city, and I find that they serve the community really well,” said Mehdizadeh.
As for what is in store for 2022, Mehdizadeh said he has three big priorities and the biggest is to make this community safer and reduce the crime rate.
“In 2020 we have seen a reduction from 2019 and in 2021 we’ve seen a significant reduction from 2020 and I want that trend to continue,” said Mehdizadeh.
Another priority for Mehdizadeh is to engage with the community more.
“I need to be doing that but again after also being respectful and complying with their health regulation and COVID rules, et cetera,” said Mehdizadeh.
He added that his third priority is the wellness of the organization and its employees, as a healthy team can serve the community better.
“I have to make sure our team is as healthy as it can be, so we can serve the community,” said Mehdizadeh.

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