June 24th, 2024

LPS utilizing diverse strategies to mitigate crime severity


By Lethbridge Herald on December 16, 2022.

The focus of the Lethbridge Police Service is law enforcement and to keep on top of crime, says chief Shahin Mehdizadeh, as Statistics Canada Crime Statistics Index has ranked Lethbridge - which includes neighbouring communities - No. 1 in the country. Herald photo by Al Beeber

Al Beeber – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – abeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Speakers at two recent public hearings into proposed land use bylaw amendments made clear the issues they are experiencing with crime downtown.

Break-ins, vandalism, drug use and dealing as well as open sexual activity are among the issues a parade of speakers talked about as well as employee and personal fears of safety here.

But crime isn’t the exclusive domain of one part of the city. It’s a disease that has spread into every neighbourhood in Lethbridge.

Who is responsible for dealing with it? Who is responsible for causing it?

Data shows the majority of crime is caused by a minority of individuals, specifically 70 per cent of it being committed by 10 per cent of perpetrators.

Earlier this year the Statistics Canada Crime Statistics Index ranked Lethbridge No. 1 in the country with an index rating of 128.65, a drop of 7.13 per cent from 2020. City figures, as Lethbridge Police Service chief Shahin Mehdizadeh pointed out at a press conference when rankings were announced, include neighbouring communities.

Lethbridge had a CSI rating for violent crime of 114.25 which was a 2.69 per cent increase over 2020.

The city’s non-violent CSI rating was 133.53, which was a 9.78 drop from 2020, continuing a trend from 2020 when the level of that type of crime dropped 4.79 per cent from 2019.

When other communities in Alberta are put in the equation and Lethbridge is considered separately, the figures look vastly different.

The town of Lloydminster had a CSI of 203.86 and a violent crime CSI of 168.05. It’s non Violent CSI in 2021 was 212.67.

The city of Red Deer had a total CSI of 176.39, up 2.71 per cent from 2020. It’s violent crime CSI was 175.65 in 2021, an increase of 19.03 per cent. Non-violent crime CSI in Red Deer was 176.24, which was down 2.11 per cent.

That doesn’t change the fact crime is a concern here, though.

And the LPS is working to address it. City council this fall approved a budget increase which enables the force to increase its complement of sworn officers and civilian staff to handle the demands of a city of more than 100,000.

Critics of the justice system cite the federal Bill C-75, commonly known as the catch-and-release bill, as a key issue saying it allows prolific offenders to get back on the street after they’re arrested.

Changes to Bill C-75, according to the federal justice department “streamline the process by increasing the types of conditions police can impose on accused so as to divert unnecessary matters from the courts and reduce the need for a bail hearing when one is not warranted.”

LPS chief Mehdizadeh told The Herald this week that what happens after offenders are arrested and they appear before the courts is beyond police control.

The focus of LPS is to do the law enforcement and to keep on top of crime.

“It’s all we can do,” said the chief.

The LPS has a downtown policing unit focusing on the issues residents and businesses are dealing with in the city’s core but the manpower in that unit has been reduced in the last few months because more officers are needed on the front line to respond to calls throughout the city, with response times to those calls being important to LPS and residents.

In its budget request to council, the police commission stated “police call response and officer availability is significantly challenged, impacting service levels to the community. Civilian workload has increased but no new staff have been added in the past two budget cycles which leaves trained officers to do work that could be completed by civilians.”

The request added “there is increasing new demands on the police because of an increase in population, social issues, investigative demands, court and legislative demands and new provincial requirements.”

The Economic Standing Policy Committee of Lethbridge city council was told this fall the police force should have a workforce of officers and civilian staff of about 212.

The LPS presently has 165 on staff with a budget that is based on 172 employees.

“Our job is to keep the community safe,” the chief said Monday, and to keep on top of the criminal activity happening in Lethbridge.

It has no influence on what happens when offenders get into the justice system, the police said.

The increased budget – which in part compensates for a $1 million annual cut made by previous council – will enable the LPS to do its job more effectively.

The LPS didn’t ask council through the police commission to give it a platinum level of service, the chief said, but to provide it with the staff numbers it needs to do the job of keeping the community safe.

LPS, like other police services, doesn’t just have to focus on the crime people normally associate with any community. It also needs resources to deal with cyber crime and sex crimes, he said.

The province is regularly changing its standards, mandating recently that all forces must have a sex-crime co-ordinator, the funding for that position coming from police service budgets in Alberta communities.

The budget increase will add 22 officers as well as civilian staff to handle duties such as records management, information technology, human resources and FOIP.

For 2023, the plan is to add 15.5 full-time civilian staff, two police officers and seven officers for youth engagement.

In 2024, the LPS wants to add seven officers with an an additional six in 2025.

No sworn officers have been hired since 2014 except for community police officers in 2019. No civilian staff have been added since 2012.

Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter

Share this story:

36
-35
1 Comment
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
R.U.Serious

I was getting excited at the beginning of this article that something was finally going to be done, but as I read on, I realized that the police will continue to ignore downtown.
I get it, the AB Justice and Feds need to bet their act together, put better laws in place and enforce exising ones – that is the fault of the province and the feds.
But with a high rate of crime occurring in the core, you steel our dedicated unit for the other parts of the city? It is the Mayor’s district or other Council members that saw someone walk by and look at the house in a strange manner?
The LPS has a downtown policing unit focusing on the issues residents and businesses are dealing with in the city’s core but the manpower in that unit has been reduced in the last few months because more officers are needed on the front line to respond to calls throughout the city, with response times to those calls being important to LPS and residents.
It is official, downtown doesn’t matter!
More to support downtown doesn’t matter:
For 2023, the plan is to add 15.5 full-time civilian staff, two police officers and seven officers for youth engagement.
Downtown sees no increase in police! The seven officers should be posted downtown to clean it up, then move to youth engagement! They ingored the people who stood and stated,Break-ins, vandalism, drug use and dealing as well as open sexual activity are among the issues a parade of speakers talked about as well as employee and personal fears of safety here.”
There is no hope! Pass the buck saying it is the justice systems fault? How about firing who came up with the plan of where the new resources are going and put someone in place the will focus on downtown issues after our spend happy council blew tens of millions of our property tax and taxdollars on the sesspool downtown to thinking it will attract people.
We will have to ask the Sheriff’s and RCMP come in to work downtown I suppose!

Last edited 1 year ago by R.U.Serious