February 21st, 2024

Council OKs task force on lawlessness


By Lethbridge Herald on October 18, 2023.

Al Beeber
LETHBRIDGE HERALD

Lethbridge city council Tuesday unanimously approved an official business motion presented by Mayor Blaine Hyggen and Acting Mayor John Middleton-Hope calling for the creation of a task force to look into lawlessness, primarily downtown.

The two want council to approve a motion that directs City administration to engage with the BRZ on a task force that will perform several functions.

Those include identifying the symptoms and depth of lawless behaviours and their impacts in Lethbridge.

The mandate of the task force will also include:

• Identify stakeholders to strategize on responses and resourcing requirements.

• Work collaboratively with stakeholders to identify solutions and assist in implementing strategies identified to create a sustainable impact.

• Develop a joint communication plan for this task force and its member stakeholders.

• Consider how any recommendations from the task force can support and/or integrate with existing encampment, shelter and housing strategies developed and being implemented by the City of Lethbridge.

The motion says because time is of the essence joint recommendations need to be prepared and presented to council at its meeting on Dec. 12.

Hyggen acknowledged the wording in the motion was strong – councillor Belinda Crowson suggested the word ‘lawlessness’ was hyberbole after expressing her support for it – but the mayor said it was needed because of the issues being experienced downtown.

Council was told the Downtown BRZ initiated discussions to address problems impacting businesses.

The motion stated “there continues to be high incidences of lawlessness in our city, lawlessness is defined as a state of disorder due to a disregard of the law, and these behaviours include criminal, uncontrolled and anti-social conduct that has a sustained, pervasive impact on communities, and whereas the Downtown BRZ has formally expressed deep concerns as to the observed lawlessness occurring in our downtown and its ongoing impacts.”

Hyggen told council after the motion was read by Deputy Mayor Mark Campbell that the strong wording was done purposely because “we’ve heard loud and clear from our downtown businesses that there are concerns that need to be dealt with…we have tough problems and we need tough solutions.”

Middleton-Hope noted “this resolution is strongly worded because tough problems call for tough solutions. 

“Despite our best efforts to date on many fronts, downtown businesses continue to experience significant challenges due to the high incidence of lawless behaviours in and around the downtown core.”

He noted in May council approved a shelter development strategy to ensure land is available and zoned for shelter use to ensure there is adequate shelter capacity on any given night for the homelessness. 

It also in May approved a co-ordinated encampment strategy with several goals including the most important being to support the most vulnerable by connecting them to housing and social supports, as well as to ensure parks and open spaces are safe and enjoyable for everyone, and to prevent encampments from becoming entrenched.

Middleton-Hope said despite the best efforts by the City “it is abundantly clear that more needs to be done. The Downtown BRZ has formally expressed a desire to work together with the City of Lethbridge on solutions that have a sustainable impact on lawless behaviours in our downtown core.”

Hyggen noted in closing that this is something council has heard time and again is of importance to the community “and I know we want to sugarcoat things, we want to make things look like there’s not the issues. 

“We do have issues but we are doing a lot of work.”

He pointed out the efforts being made by City administration which has “taken a lot of the different concerns we’ve brought forward to them and went out and implement strategies to help alleviate some of these concerns that we’re seeing.”

He added there is more that can be done, noting a conversation he had in which people who left their vehicle overnight at a business and came back to find its windows smashed.

He said behaviours like this don’t just happen downtown but added efforts to clean up crime should start downtown.

“It’s something to start with; it doesn’t mean it’s going to be the end of it,” the mayor added.

Councillor Rajko Dodic called the resolution “the right wording, the right motion at the right time” during debate.

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Guy Lethbridge

Task force on lawlessness…. what a joke. Downtown has been lawless for years.. they just sorted that out now ?

Council really reminds me of the “somethings actually happening” scene from Monty Python’s The Life of Brian. Google that for a metaphor on how council makes decisions.

ewingbt

There were several comments made by Council members which were concerning, even though some were made, needing more clarity on the plan.
Why is there a need for a task force? I can give you dozens of pictures of crimes, the aftermath, fires, property damage and graffiti just in the past several months on just one city block which has the Petro Can station, dental suites, LDAR office, Vital Aire, etc., and that is just one city block!
The issue is the current laws need to be enforced, but the Crown is one the problems and another big problem are non-profits and indigenous leaders who cry foul, when laws are enforced.
Let’s be clear on this: the crime, property damage, graffiti, loitering around businesses are not been committed by the truly homeless, but by gang members who sell sex, drugs, stolen goods, etc., at night and during the day, and feel they now have a right to, because there have been no deterrents.
Public outcries and pressure have bound their hands, but more importantly, the failure to prosecute is a major factor.
I am happy that the issues are now recognized and appreciate all the hard work done in other areas, but laws being enforced so there are deterrents are needed here.
Councillor Crowson was concerned with the word ‘lawlessness’ and bought up a definition used in South Africa . . . this is Canada, with different laws and definitions and that word was explained and done fairly.
Another concern was from Councillor Carlson and why it is just downtown being looked for this. Where do you start then? If you look at the crime stats for the city, downtown is the major area by far that is impacted by high rates of crime. Downtown businesses are being directly impacted and the Council has poured over $68 million into downtown in the past 10 years to attract people downtown, but the crime pushes them away. CASA, Yates renovations, SAAG investments, Festival Square, revitalization projects, etc. all ‘investments’ made to bring people downtown to a crime zone.
A targeted crime reduction program is what is used successfully in communities across North America. Downtown it is the epi-center where it all began and where the root of the issues are.
Lastly, what would you call violence, assaults, property damage, open illegal drug use, break and enters into buildings/vehicles, illegal drug sales, prostitution using trafficked women in many cases, arson and burning of the Lethbridge Hotel, Bow On Tong, and several other structures in the downtown, graffiti on private and public property, illegal accessing of business rooftops and other anti-social behaviours? Are they not acts that could be defined as lawlessness?
I am concerned with yet another committee/task force after seeing some of them in the past in which the Chair pushed for their own policies and swayed the committee members to fall in line. Enforcing exising laws after pushing the government for the Crown to act is what is needed.

Eileen Wright

Identify the people doing the crime. Easy to do. Ask your police force – they know who the bad guys are. Among Vancouver’s huge homeless population, 40 persons were found to be responsible for 6300 calls to police. And none of them are in jail – they get released – there are no consequences. Most of these criminals are mentally challenged druggies, but they know what they are doing and what they can get away with. Lethbridge probably has the same problem. Vancouver will tell you catch and release doesn’t work. So Lethbridge should try something else.

ewingbt

I remember hearing the stats you state and I appreciate you reminding me/us. Well said!
Police are aware in this city, but the judicial and penal systems are a joke.
They arrest someone and before they finish their detailed paperwork, the offender is released and back on the streets.
How many news items were reported by the Herald of a person with an already long list of charges from not just one incident, but several, committing yet another crime while waiting for those cases to appear in court?
This small group of people on our streets are the author of multiple crimes and rarely see any jail time or other forms of deterent.
After watching the issues in Vancouver over 20 years and walking in the back alleys of East Hastings many times to see the carnage, I have learned that if we want to end this, avoid anything BC is doing and focus on alternative plans.
BC has had 20 years of harm reduction practises employed and yet every year the fatal overdoses, number of addicts, crime and homeless have grown. You do not need to have a degree to understand that it is a failure. They won’t admit it, instead it is one excuse after another why it fails. Now they have made Canada a drug manufacturer, making their own safe supply of Meth, Cocaine and supplying opioids to the addicts . . . and fatal overdoses continue to rise!
I believe this city administration has finally seen this and applaud the encampment strategy and look forward to seeing changes on our streets and neighbourhoods in this city.
It has taken hard work by not just those in administration, but our Fire/EMS and police. It has also taken a toll on many who have fought for change in our city who have given up jobs, friendships, finances, and time as they fought to end the carnage on our streets and end the high cost of lives and taxdollars. It has been a thankless job for those who stood up for our city, but it was done FOR our city, not for any accolades.
I am happy to see the business community rise up and say we have had enough finally!
It took too many years for them to wake up and stand for themselves!