By Lethbridge Herald on January 26, 2024.
Steffanie Costigan – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Downtown Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ) is looking forward to the future of the new Downtown Lawlessness Reduction Task Force committee.
The new task force committee has met a couple of times making plans for action on downtown safety. Its latest meeting was Thursday at 7:30 a.m. in City Hall and another one will be held February 8 in council chambers, also at 7:30 a.m.
Meetings are planned for the second and fourth Thursdays of each month with each expected to last between one and 1.5 hours.
Downtown BRZ executive director Sarah Amies shared some of the possible strategies the new task force has been discussing to keep crime at bay.
“There is possibly the move of bringing sheriffs into the city,” said Amies, to assist with police.
Amies is vice-chair of the committee which is helmed by Hunter Heggie in the chair position.
Sheriffs could be part of the larger plan and some of the stuff that they are trained for such as dealing with traffic and safety matters, leaving police officers to look at more enforcement in the downtown, said Amies.
Amies said the task force committee is also looking at securing a data technology company to provide some data-driven information for use by the task force in its work.
“With a technology like that we can kind of map where things are happening and where we need to provide more focus,” she said.
Amies said it is important to listen to the downtown business owners.
“I think it’s really, really important that we also receive and consider the narrative that comes from business owners and property owners, because they’re the ones that are living and breathing the downtown on a daily basis, all the good and all the not so good.”
She described the involvement of the BRZ on the task force.
“In conjunction with a number of other organizations, we’ve got quite a hefty group of people sitting around the table. We have the Lethbridge police, we have Lethbridge fire services, we have the legal team from the City. We also have the Regulatory Services team from the city, five members of the BRZ, a couple of council members,” said Amies.
Amies voiced the importance of advocating for downtown businesses.
“I understand and recognize just how important it is that businesses feel that they’re being listened to, that they’re being advocated for, and that certainly is one of the main pillars within the BRZ mission statement is the advocacy piece,” she said.
The task force is a sub committee of the Safety and Social Standing Policy Committee which reports to city council.
It includes five members of the Downtown BRZ, two city members of council, one member from Lethbridge Police Service and six City administration representatives.
Mayor Blaine Hyggen and Acting Mayor John Middleton-Hope are council’s representatives.
It will operate through this year with a review planned before the end of December. When required task force recommendations will go through the Safety and Social Standing Policy Committee before adoption by council.
The task force is a cross-functional group which has a mandate consisting of several components.
They include, according to a submission at this week’s meeting made by Director of Community and Council Relations Travis Hillier on the scope of work for data analysis and report generation:
1. Identify the symptoms and depth of lawless behaviours and their impacts in our city.
2. Identify stakeholders to strategize on responses and resourcing requirements,
3. Work collaboratively with stakeholders to identify solutions and assist in implementing strategies identified to create a sustainable impact,
4. Develop a joint communication plan for this task force and its member stakeholders,
5. 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.
It defines lawlessness 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.”
The data that it could include for analysis will come from Lethbridge police, fire and EMS, Lethbridge 311 and Community Social Development.
Hillier’s presentation said it also could include publicly available data from other sources including Alberta Health Services.
The task force wants to see from the collection of data analysis a comprehensive report that will help it in decision-making along with a comprehensive view of what’s happening downtown, incident patterns and trends, dashboards and visual aids for easy interpretation and understanding and actionable insights and recommendations.
Interested parties had until Friday to submit quotes for providing the data analysis service.