May 18th, 2024

Crime prevention association gives preview of conference

By Lethbridge Herald on April 12, 2024.

Steffanie Costigan
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Alberta Community Crime Prevention Association offered a preview  recently of its annual conference, “Pathways to Safe Communities Wellness and Resilience in times of change” that is happening in Calgary from May 6 to 8. 

ACCPA hosted a virtual conference with speakers sharing varying topics on various issues relevant to crime prevention within rural and urban areas in Alberta.

“It’s really important that we showcase and let everyone know in the province that there is good things happening. And many of these things can be replicated or tailored to many other communities in the province, whether you’re rural or Indigenous, or smaller urban,” said ACCPA chair and president Jean Bota.

City of Calgary Community Standards Chief Ryan Plecksaitis spoke on programs such as the Coordinated Safety Response Team and the impact programs are having on addressing challenged areas. 

“Until now, this program led to the demolition of 125 problem properties and the remediation of over 40 additional sites here in Calgary. And in my mind, those are some pretty remarkable numbers. 

“And it’s not that we’re just removing a blight on a community, but we’re seeing a reduction in calls for service, we’re seeing new developments go up in their place, which has positive impacts in communities,” said Plecksaitis. 

RCMP Engagement and Outreach Community Safety officer Menasha Nikhanji talked on the topic of community safety wellbeing and the work that is being done within communities and among stakeholders in addressing homelessness.

“The communities we serve also understand that the police cannot solve these complex social and health issues. 

“For this reason, the Alberta RCMP specifically the community safety and lobbying branch, is working to build partnerships in our cities and towns to address the multiple factors leading to people becoming unsheltered, unhoused. 

“So those individuals can receive the care and support that they need,” said Nikhanji. 

She said studies show that unsheltered and unhoused individuals struggle with physical and mental health conditions along with dealing with financial hardships, substance use disorder, and being, “the most vulnerable in our communities, the individuals face many barriers usually accessing basic necessities.” 

The next topic of discussion was on gun and gang violence addressed by Manager of Youth Programs for the Centre for Newcomers Noel Bahliby. 

He acknowledged criminal networks prey on youth vulnerability and discussed solutions to help the new youth coming into the province not to fall into gang violence. 

“As we see this wave of newcomers coming to Alberta, and that’s both from outside the country and both people moving from other provinces, keeping in mind that the children are often the ones that kind of bear the brunt of that move, and seeing how do we advocate for more sports opportunities that are specifically inviting for newcomers that address those barriers?” 

Trudi Mason, Dean of the Centre for Justice and Human Services at Lethbridge College, shared the collaborative efforts in enhancing Indigenous policing through professional development and relationship building. 

The college, said Mason, has worked with the Blood Tribe on professional development for any members that were policing on the nation. 

“We immediately connected to that and wanted to work with Blood Tribe and Blood Tribe community members to develop these Indigenous policing micro credentials,” she said. 

Mason said the community identified micro credentials the program would be focused on and how these programs have mostly been opened up to the public to take. 

The topics include history, culture and reconciliation, trust, respect and communication, human trafficking, intimate partner violence and the abuse of elderly persons, sexual abuse, and missing persons. 

And the final one is drugs and addictions in Indigenous communities. 

“Originally, we developed these for serving members of a police service. But through the development process, we recognize that there are many other types of agencies in our community, and our public safety sector that would benefit from this learning.”

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