July 17th, 2024

Task force hears from company about data analysis

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on January 12, 2024.

Herald photo by Al Beeber Hunter Heggie chairs a meeting of the Downtown Lawlessness Reduction Task Force Thursday morning in council chambers.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

With businessman Hunter Heggie chairing, the new Downtown Lawlessness Reduction Task Force got down to business on Thursday with a meeting at City Hall.

The task force is a sub committee of the Safety and Social Standing Policy Committee which reports to city council.

The public meeting at 7:30 a.m. in council chamber attracted a sparse audience on a frigid morning – one spectator unattached to representative groups watched the proceedings.

The bulk of the public portion of the meeting, before the task force went into a closed session, focused around a proposal from Helpseeker Technologies on the analysis of City data to help prioritize the work of the task force.

CEO Alina Turner of Helpseekers gave a remote presentation to the task force and answered questions posed by its members which include members of the Downtown Lethbridge Business Revitalization Zone and departments of the City of Lethbridge.

Helpseekers is a data analyst and artificial intelligence software company that deals with complex social problems, the task force was told. Those include homelessness, addictions and others which will be tackled by the task force’s scope of work, Turner said.

“We’ll need to take a look at what’s in store from your team members on the ground to make sure that we’re representing it properly,” she said of the data.

The company has done work on guns and gangs, social disorders, complex needs, encampments, novel psychoactive substances and recovery systems of care, Turner said.

Customers of the company have included the cities of Red Deer, Thunder Bay, Ont., Sudbury, Ont., Burnaby, B.C., Langley, B.C. and Moncton, New Brunswick as well as police forces in Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto.

The expected impact of Helpseekers, if hired, is to help the task force gain a deeper understanding of downtown lawlessness and provide data-backed strategies for the force.

The cost of the company’s services is $9,999.

Task force member Deputy police chief Gerald Grobmeier told Turner he is familiar with the company’s work from time he spent in Red Deer asked Turner what data the company is anticipating and how does she anticipate getting it. Having an AI program run through LPS data is problematic, the deputy chief said.

Turner said if there is sensitive data the LPS wants to include is Helpseekers will only work through the force’s data environment.

Acting mayor John Middleton-Hope asked her what the committee can hope to get out of a data analysis.

Turner told him “the dependance is on what the quality of the data is and what we can get out of the data,” adding that having done this before she was going to make assumptions that the data will look similar to what it looks like elsewhere.

The company will provide insights into types and volumes and inter-connections around geography, including particular hot spots and the movement of some of these issues in the community, she said.

Sarah Amies of the Downtown BRZ said one suggestion is that face-to-face interviews be done with members of her organization which has 700 addresses and about 500 businesses to find out what their experiences are on their ground.

She asked once that information is collected if it could be turned over to Helpseekers to be included in overall data.

Turner responded yes.

Task force member Matthew McHugh said one issue the BRZ has found is that members aren’t calling 311, 911 or the police anymore.

“It just doesn’t happen” so he wondered with if the task force does its own survey if that’s something the company has seen before.

“All the time,” Turner said.

Turner told the force in response to a question from member Sheri Kain if she could provide examples of solutions the company has put forward with data collected, there are many including the encampment response in Edmonton presently underway.

“Our solution there was to develop an integrated response between policing, social services and the province of Alberta, Alberta Health Services, around the decampment in Edmonton.”

That included developing targeting high-risk encampments to decamp them appropriately and ensure the right interventions are going to be put in place and to have coordinated technology infrastructure to make sure that clients are moving in the proper sequence, ensuring there’s enough shelter space for people want shelter.

Public concerns about making people more vulnerable had to be addressed. And it had to be acknowledged some people are at camps to victimize vulnerable people.

“Those folks will scatter so we don’t’ necessarily need a housing intervention there. We need a policing enforcement intervention so that balance of social and health and enforcement becomes really critical and the co-ordination between those parties is essential,” said Turner.

One thing Helpseekers is supporting in Edmonton is a command centre around social disorder as well, she said.

This hasn’t been done before in Canada, Turner said.

She said many issues are longstanding, but the way they’re coming together now is different than before COVID.

“The COVID phenomenon has really changed the game” and now research grade pharmaceuticals that are pre-cursors to some street drugs are coming into play such as xylazine which “basically gets combined with fentanyl and makes any intervention around resuscitation after an overdose basically moot because it cancels out those medications.

“Those drugs are coming in faster and faster,” said Turner adding she knows for sure in Lethbridge there is xylazine in the drug supply.

“How do we disrupt that piece as well? The majority of that supply comes through the mail actually,” Turner said.

“That’s changing so solutions need to keep up with the times.”

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The issues all point to the impact of the cause of drug addiction. It is the common denominator!
Focus on cutting the supply, enforcing existing laws, increasing mental health and addiction treatment, increasing drug courts and increasing correctional facilities and penetentiaries for those hardened drug dealers/manufacturers/criminals who need rehabilitation and are kept away from society until they respect laws.
Organized crime has flourished from this crisis, while thousands died! It is time we started getting justice for all those young lifes who have died and families whose lives have been destroyed and go after these killers . . . they are murderers and should be judged as such!


So outside of what we already know, what is this new 10,000.00 investment going to glean. Ewingbt has the answers which are plain to see for the “common” folk and those not reliant on keeping the game going.


I don’t have all the answers . . . if I did I would be a billionaire! We will never end addiction . . . people still die of alcoholism. We need to reduce the number of deaths and by putting in place proven policies which reduce those deaths, we reduce drug addiction, homelessness, crime, loitering, property damage, human trafficking, and other crimes organized criminals gain revenue from.
I have spent 8 years fully engaged on this issue after the SCS was being considered in this city. I have conducted a considerable amount of research across North America and engaged with some in the US who have the most successful programs to deal with drug addiction and related crimes.
I have closely monitored what BC and the Western provinces have tried, including the US Northwest states of Oregon, and Washington.
BC continues to dig themselves a deeper hole which will send many more to their deaths by allowing safe supply fentanyl to be prescribed to minors without parental consent or knowledge.
Fentanyl is the world’s most addictive drug and allowing minors free access will only end badly for those youth! Minors who use marijuana have presented with higher rates of long-lasting mental disorders, including schizophrenia.
Can you imagine what fentanyl will do to their developing brains?
I do not have all the answers, and do know the issues are complex, but I was trained to observe and analyze. I had the opportunity to work on the streets downtown for a couple of years, dealing directly with the unhoused and addicts.
I did have the opportunity to attend university as well and do know that you do not need to have your Masters to see that the BC policies are a failure! BC is tangible proof that harm reduction policies, which include reduction of police, is a complete failure!
I wish I had all the answers and could end this now, but I don’t! I do know what will reduce the fatal overdoses and crime!
I just cannot believe that BC is now going to hand out fentanyl, not just to adults, but minors . . . this is just how insane they are!

Last edited 6 months ago by ewingbt

They never tell you how much the community services department bills the city for to run these shell games.


Blah blah blah. Do we really need to hire an outside firm to tell us the problem? The problem is drugs and the problem area is downtown.

Forced confinement and rehab is the ONLY answer! The rest is just white noise.


City has hired consultants with various theories at least 3 other times that I know of for this issue. Much of their reports are shelved as council doesn’t have the spine to carry through.But it makes it appear as though they are opened minded and they may be seen to be doing something. City doesn’t need any one to inform them ,they just need a means to kick the problem down the road, at least until after the next election.


Just another cat and mouse game, when no actual ability for enforcement. Just like the feral and domestic cats with no cat bylaw, a numbers game no one can win.
City /council will just cherry pick from this report as they have from other committees that consume a lot of expensive overtime from city staff. All the rest will be scrapped and may not see the light of day.
This committee with the help of council and city staff will just move certain services from downtown. Crime will be reduced somewhat. But they will be able to claim it a big success and how wonderful it was for city staff to help for basically nothing but a shell game. All paid for by tax residents.