July 17th, 2024

Crime situation a continuing problem downtown


By Herald on July 4, 2024.

Individuals shelter with belongings in a gated doorway on Wednesday morning downtown. Herald photo by Al Beeber

Editor’s note: This is the second article in a three-part series.

Justin Sibbet – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

As more officers are hired by the Lethbridge Police Service, some residents still feel as though not enough is being done to solve the problems downtown.

According to Statistics Canada, the Crime Severity Index in Lethbridge has dropped in recent years, with the most up-to-date data being from 2022. However, the violent crime severity index has sharply risen between 2018 and 2022 from 116.94 to 130.41. 

Barry Ewing, a resident living in a downtown condo, says the situation has become so severe he believes it has reached a point where residents must fight back, though without breaking the law themselves.

“I’m not a vigilante, because I’ve been falsely accused of that… because I was saying we have to take our city back. Well, I believe we have to take our city back, but we have to do it legally,” said Ewing.

However, he says he once felt obligated to protect a nearby business, so he approached two men who held weapons and were damaging the business. He says he had the goal of stopping them from creating further damage to the building.

“I had fear that day that something was going to happen,” said Ewing, although he maintains somebody had to do something. 

Kristen Saturley, a spokesperson for the LPS, issued a statement to the Lethbridge Herald saying vigilantism is not advisable and there are better options for those feeling unsafe.

“Police advise against any sort of vigilantism. If someone fears for their safety, there is an emergency or crime in progress, call 911 immediately.”

Ewing is not alone in sharing concerns about the lack of safety in Downtown Lethbridge.

 Tom Leavitt, who works for a business downtown, says there have been instances where human urine and feces are found all around his building, among other crimes.

“That’s pretty regular, so we’ve taken steps to have our area steam-pressure washed from time to time to keep it sanitary for our people,” said Leavitt.

“In the wintertime, people have lit things on fire in our parkade that gives us cause for concern. We have burn marks on the side of our building in some places and this comes after the winter where we had some buildings in downtown get completely destroyed by fires.”

Leavitt says criminal behaviour seems to come and go, but it never ceases to exist.

“I’d say it goes in waves,” said Leavitt. “For a time, we’ll see that it seems better around our location and then there’ll be a period of time where it’s worse.”

He says the number of needles has decreased in recent years, but there are so many continuing problems that this is a small consolation.

“We’ve had break-ins, we’ve had actual vehicles stolen, vandalism, the public urination and defecation, those are all items that we’re trying to deter so that we can keep our staff safe,” said Leavitt.

Ewing says some have resorted to calling the situation “the new normal,” but he is not willing to accept such a deplorable state of affairs. 

“(Various people within the city) say ‘well look at what’s happening in the other cities, we’re doing better than them’. Well, I’m sorry, I don’t want that, I want to be able to go down to Galt Gardens and enjoy an event there again because Rib Fest and some of the other events I used to walk down there to enjoy are no longer there.”

He says other cities may be worse overall, but Lethbridge could one day become an example of excellence if moved down the correct path.

“This is our city, we have a choice,” said Ewing. “We can have something different.”

However, he says the biggest roadblock in changing the city is the fact people are willing to allow the streets to be taken over while turning a blind eye.

“We’ve allowed the addicts, the criminals to take over Galt Gardens and they’ve given us a little piece called Festival Square to celebrate our events.”

Lethbridge city councillor John Middleton-Hope says sometimes the laws and policies are beyond the reach of city council.

“These are decisions that are made outside of the span of our control sometimes, which affect us deleteriously,” said Middleton-Hope. “An example of that is the supervised consumption site.”

He says the effects of the supervised consumption site are not going away any time soon.

“(The supervised consumption site) had a significant impact on the city of Lethbridge and we are still continuing to deal with that today and we probably will for some time.”

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Dennis Bremner

Catering to drug addicts, is FOREVER. So people either talk about the elephant or as Ewing says:………….the biggest roadblock in changing the city is the fact people are willing to allow the streets to be taken over while turning a blind eye.
Complacancy is the problem. When you do not demand change, you are by ommission accepting the status quo. If Society Accepts then it is the new norm.
So either Lethbridge Residents stand up for what their forefathers built, or they watch it dissolve to a ghetto.. I say again , WAKE UP LETHBRIDGE!
I tried to figure out why people just accept this? I still haven’t, You watch silently as a FASD facility is being built a block from the Drug Capital of Lethbridge and obviously do not ponder what the impact would be on FASD people?
FASD People
-act impulsively
-have difficulties:handling money
-learning how to tell time
-keeping up with classroom learning
-not understand consequences
-be unfocused and easily distracted
-forget how to do something they’ve done before

Does anything there sort of stand out and scream, don’t build it near the Shelter?
I think people are so concerned that if they speak up, it could end up in thier backyard? So they do not. Concerned Lethbridge goes silent and allows thier own City to be destroyed for fear on participating in an adult conversation?
Let me say this again just in case you have not got this yet, Lethbridge.
“I have watched many a city destroy its own downtown only to spend MILLIONS and MILLIONS of taxpayer dollars to try to get it back again.”
When all they had to do was have an adult conversation before it happened and come up with a Plan to protect YOUR city before it went downhill.
It is not “just Galt Gardens” This is happening in many areas around Lethbridge, this is one example only. – take a look behind the 7/11 on Magrath and 5th South. The number of Addicts has now reached 11 and they are there everyday. Not a thing has been done to move them along.
Why are they there? Ponder that for a moment? Is it because they love 7/11 food or some other reason? Why is this an urgent case?
Watch the number of kids leaving the 2-3 Schools 2 blocks away that come to the 7//11 for a snack at noon. So if suddenly your child is approached by drug sellers and becomes addicted we may get some concern, until then, no one is putting 2+2 together. Does anyone care? I might as well beat my head against a wall because I see no concern whatsoever ?
Hence my BP got to 200/190 but I have decided to join the rest of you and watch this degrade.I can’t handle the complacency, and the “lets wash thier feet” attitude, any longer.
Time to wake up Lethbridge or standby for continual rising tax bills yearly to fight (and lose) what is becoming the norm, your choice! Maybe thats what it will take, hit you in the wallet to finally get you to speak up?
You have seen nothing yet, this is just the tip of the iceberg on how bad this place could get if you continue to do nothing.
PS- this rant does not include those that ARE doing something like Barry and others. It seems they feel like I am including them, when I am not. I may totally disagree with the approach as I feel I know the outcome, but never disagree with the effort.

Last edited 12 days ago by Dennis Bremner
ewingbt

We see eye to eye on this Dennis! We do have some common ground. We need more treatment facilities and I am wondering what is taking so long for the addiction treatment facility in Standoff to be built. These facilities are an important part of solution.
I am watching a local business on the next block who has tried the proximity alarms for years to move loiterers along who continued to damage his business property and started using it as a base for the prostitutes now build what must be at least a $50,000 steel fence with gates around his property. That is a big investment just to conduct business downtown.
I agree that the issues have spread for a variety of reasons: different gangs who avoid conflict, less competition for their criminal actions, close to their homes or some are truly homeless who feel safer in those areas.
Downtown has been the epi-center and the library, Park n Ride, Petro Can area has been a favourite area for the prostitutes to set up at night or day. The prostitutes/dealers/criminals breaking and entering/loitering around businesses are all connected. They are the ones who commit crimes and cause all the issues so John’s can enjoy their young girls, while the rest of society pays the price either financially, or through the loss of family members and addiction related conflicts. Too many have died because of leadership making bad decisions across this country.
44,592 apparent opioid toxicity deaths (note that these are just opioid deaths and do not include other drugs) reported between January 2016 and December 2023 and we can no longer trust stats coming out of BC because they do not include safe supply drug overdoses, just what they call ‘toxic drugs’ overdoses. Just like the SCS played with the figures, BC now in their desparate act, has cut out some important stats for safe supply drug overdoses. The medical examiners and coroners no longer test for them specifically in their tests for fatal overdoses.
BC continues to go further into the rabbit hole, as do other cities in Ontario and Quebec who have incorporated some of the same distructive policies as BC, which only magnify the issues and kill more people.
Supervised Consumption Sites in BC have removed the pillar of offering access treatment at those sites, and think that the addict themselves can make the decision on their own when they should get treatment. Many more have died from this policy.
These sites do not have age restrictions as a lounge or bar, and women who are pregnant are not counselled or banned, so that increase the FASD population. BC has a policy which is in effect or is in the process of allowing children 12 and over access to safe supply drugs without their parents knowledge . . . all they have to do is go through a two step interview process and the parents are never informed.
No drugs are safe drugs that are safe supply. They all kill and are addictive!
Sad so many must suffer because of bad policies!

Last edited 12 days ago by ewingbt
ewingbt

““Police advise against any sort of vigilantism. If someone fears for their safety, there is an emergency or crime in progress, call 911 immediately.”
I need to clarify that evening I referred to where I went out to prevent further damage to businesses. I do not suggest anyone do so. I have been trained in these areas and didn’t approach the persons, but made my presence known and they slowly moved away.
That night police were short staffed which is very common and it took police almost 3 hours to respond. I was told to just fill out the online reporting form, and the tech who answered was not going to take my complaint and would not allow me to speak to a supervisor or duty sergeant.
One of the businesses these two were hitting, one with rock in his sock and the other a bar and his shoes at times, had recently installed an alarm which was to move along loiterers who have damaged their property, left piles of feces at their doors and urinated all over their building, but the alarms were waking many of us up who lived nearby, so when they were told, they stop using the alarm. Now that business had people trying to damage that property . . . police were not going to respond because they were tied up with other calls . . . I felt something had to be done immediately when I saw one of the offenders trying to break windows of that business, and others.
There are policies on how to approach this type of incident safely and I followed that training. There was no verbal communication and a safe distance was maintained.
They went back to the Petro Can, but the one with the bar continued his violent acts for another 2 hours before moving behind to the SAMS treatment center, where he ripped down some signs in back and knocked over some garbage, then hit their intercom screaming F U and some other garbled rant before moving on towards the library.
This is why we need some type of support in place, now because we can no longer wait for the new recruits to be fully trained which will take over a year and almost 2 years in some cases.
We need Sheriffs until then or at the very least, well trained security guards who will be able to do the job of moving these people along without having to call police. But finding these type of security guards is very hard. Many are only paid $16 to $17 per hour and take a lot of abuse for the job they have to do. Most have been assaulted more than once, as have police/fire/EMS!
We are approaching summer when many police justifiably will take their families on summer holidays, while it is also when other communities dump their problem people on us, as well as many decide they want a change and come to do their crimes on our streets instead of Calgary, for example, who has a push on to clean up their city, parks and neighbourhoods right now, pushing the criminals out who now look for new areas to operate in.
We need law enforcement to protect the businesses and properties overnight and on weekends, when the Downtown Unit is not working. The DTU is only a small unit of police with a monumental task!
Police need additional support until they get their ranks up to national per capita standards. When they do not have the manpower to respond to calls like I made, it shows they need short term support by other agencies.
Why were we refused Sheriffs when we have had some of the highest Canadian Crime Stats. Police have done well, but many members are suffering burn out and the overtime costs are taking large chunks from their budget? Many are not aware of the huge number of overtime hours members are having to put in, which is just not sustainable in any job . . . so then there is burn out which means time off, further stressing the ranks . . . most are not aware of this issue!
I would be asking the province why we were denied Sheriffs! Who has been advocating this for our city and police?

Last edited 12 days ago by ewingbt
Dennis Bremner

Here is the point I have been trying to make when we got into it on another thread Barry.
Has anyone had a heart to heart with the Police Chief because we, the citizens of Lethbridge are putting him in the same position as we put our Military leaders. Have you ever seen a Gneral/Admiral speak up and say, we have no equipment, the equipment we do have is dead/expired or useless and we need equipment and manpower NOW!
If you have, its when that same General/Admiral knows he has been passed up as Chief of Defence Staff and has been given the “time to retire signaL. The same goes with the putgoing CDS, when he is done, suddenly he realizes that the equipment he has is garbage.
I am of the opinion, and always will be, that the Chief of Police(COP) will always be short individuals, no matter what he is asked to do. Many COP spread their officers very thin, and as you say overtime is a regular happening. Not because they want to, they just do not have the staff.
Lastly, police are not here to administer Naloxone, and cater to a 5 times a night drug addict, although the “feet washers” expect no less! As you are illustrating clearly sometimes Criminal/Addicts can be so overwhelming that you do not give a crud, what happens to them, right? Well multiply that by 1000 for every month these men and women are on duty in the LAPS. as well as other frist responders.
I think what you are seeing is year 3 in Copenhagen after Fix Rooms became Consumption Rooms. Year 3 saw overworked, irritated, overwhelmed and disgusted police finally just give up, and the “Little Mermaid” was the hub of prostitution, drugs, murders for about 4 years.
I think Lethbridge is at that point! Officers are saying (under the breath) WHAT IS THE POINT!
Meanwhile the feet washers are packing them into the downtown like Sardines! So what impression would you think an officer has of what Lethbridge Society wants in Downtown Lethbridge?
Its time for a new narrative, and I personally do not care if I am part of it. Harold says its “not too late”, if it isn’t you are skimming the outside edges as we speak of a total loss of downtown. How long does it take to get it back? 4 years, hard work, rule changes, Society changes and MILLIONS of Dollars.
I see nothing that says a heart to heart and a strategy that Police can support because they see it as a Merry Go Round where it just comes back 10 minutes later requiring the same effort and the same frustration.
That is why, this always fails!

Last edited 12 days ago by Dennis Bremner
ewingbt

Yes I have had heart to heart talks with Chief Mehdizadeh, the Deputy Chief and 2 Inspectors know my stance as does Sgt. Darroch of the DPU.
When I say I have been attending the meetings and police information sessions and Police commission meeting, I wasn’t embellishing!
I have been fully engaged in the last few months. I have spent 2 hours in the past 4 days speaking with two separate LPS Sergeants expressing concerns and getting their feedback.
Members are burning out because of all the overtime and they need support somehow until the new recruits are trained.
I can only say Dennis that if you were aware of all of the information I have collected in the last few months and what is going on downtown, you may have a better understanding. I cannot explain it all in short detail. I and many of the people I know who have businesses downtown have all had enough and they are speaking out. They know there must be deterrents and that law enforcement is needed.
You nailed it when you statedComplacancy is the problem. When you do not demand change, you are by ommission accepting the status quo.” People gave up and in doing so the issues have been allowed to continue.
Change requires action! Action means communicating to your leaders that you want this carnage on our streets to end and laws enforced and/or people sent to treatment. Otherwise, it will become the norm and we will be paying millions of dollars every year of our local property tax dollars to pay for the impacts, as we do now, over $11 million just for all the services.
For those of us downtown who are impacted . . . We live it every day downtown, every minute, every hour! We see it when we look out our windows or when business owners come to work just to find another steamy pile at their doors, or a group high on drugs preventing them from entering their business . . . it is just another day in paradise downtown.
I am sorry, I just will not continue trying to explain this on this forum. I also am in the middle of dealing with other levels in dealing with these issues that is time consuming, so I just do not have the time. I have tried to explain it, and I have had plenty of talks with many of the people involved in leadership and politicians. I am going at this at multiple levels and have been doing so for a few months. Levels that involve people who can bring change!

Last edited 12 days ago by ewingbt
Dennis Bremner

If you manage to turn this around, you will be “the one” who succeeded while thousands before you failed doing what they felt was the solution. Fail and our city is toast, so I wish you luck because you will need it

ewingbt

No one person could turn this around. I am only a small piece of a very large puzzle! I do not have all the answers, but have some common sense solutions where to start.
We have to start somewhere, just like we did with the SCS, the LOPS and encampment strategy . . , getting people engaged is the hardest part.
People need to stand up for their rights by expressing concerns to their leadership, their politicians . . . with respect, not anger since the leadership is already taking a lot of abuse.
Leadership in LPS do not agree with everything I express and I do not agree with everything they express but for change to happen we must get the ball rolling.
Bringing our police force up to national per capita standards is not a bad idea . . . it is necessary . . . bringing Sheriffs temporarily would be beneficial for the community and give our police some time to recharge until the new recruits are fully trained . . . but the attrition will continue, which means more members will need replacing and more recruits needed. These are just basic solutions combined with increased treatment programs, effective social services/housing, but more important, the Indigenous communities must stop banishing their people with drug addiction and dealing issues to our streets . . . where they die!
I call the streets killing fields where some live a few weeks, most a couple of years and a rare few like Arvin Whitecow, over 10 years. This is not the sotution to the drug problem in those communities. That is a major issue that kills so many. They must start dealing with those issues in their communities and the other issue is people cannot do drugs or drink alcohol in these communities, so they come to do so on our streets, with no place to stay . . .that is why I feel that Alvin Mills camp would be better in Standoff and they stop banishing people to Lethbridge, Calgary and other communities.
We must move to end this and law enforcement is only part of the solution.

Dennis Bremner

Two things You said : but more important, the Indigenous communities must stop banishing their people with drug addiction and dealing issues to our streets . . . where they die!
You don’t need to be banished or booted. If you are harrassed by Tribe Police you will leave and Lethbridge is the destination.
Second thing: .that is why I feel that Alvin Mills camp would be better in Standoff and they stop banishing people to Lethbridge, Calgary and other communities.
I completely disagree and if you talk to Alvin I think he will disagree as well. What you do not do is put in a facility in Standoff that emulates the same problems we have here. You move to a “neutral area”. You absolutely need to give Standoff, the exact same break you hope to give Lethbridge, hence my “Neutral not on the Reserve Camp, but I also know you disagree with me, so we will drop it.

HaroldP

No truth has been better told. I agree fully that we can take back Lethbridge, it is not too late, and we do not have to be “vigilante”. However we need to be diligent. It is a shame that John Middleton-Hope was not on City Council to agree with and support then Council member, Joe Mauro, perhaps maybe then, Mayor Chris Spearman may have NOT paved the way for the Supervised Consumption Site. (SCS) along with his (Spearman’s) direction and encouragement to relax police enforcement around the (SCS) and this all in the wokeness of “Harm reduction”….. of course directly connected was, then MLA Shannon Phillips, another champion for “Harm reduction”! Thankfully they (Spearman/Phillips) are now both gone. As Barry Ewing (with his enforcement back ground) knows and says, it is really tough to take back ground that has been lost, tough but not impossible. Rash of calls to 911 are relatively non resultant, due to the current “catch and release” and the now apparent “OKI” promotion. We see police attend a complaint involving aboriginals and there is “high fives” even hugs with little to no actual enforcement, often just a friendly “Don’t do that again” caution from the attending officer(s) or at best having the group disband and go separate ways. Bremner has also hit the nail on the head, we can not continue to cater to the addicted, the supply and demand for this society is endless. Without being “vigilante” we can be vigilant and protect our property, we have rights and authority to do so. It starts with the individual and then along with you neighbour and then within the entire community finally, we can have Lethbridge back. This is not a discriminatory position rather something necessary to get out of the hell hole.

Last edited 12 days ago by HaroldP
Say What . . .

For those of us who believe there is a God and in prayer, praying for our city, the addicts, the leadership and the criminals that they may find God.
The Church is the most powerful institution when prayer is made properly.
We need to pray for our leadership to be protected and make the right decisions. We to pray for those in the middle of crisis to be healed and off the streets. We must pray!
The Church is not utilizing one of the most powerful tools they have! Prayer!

HaroldP

We as Christians are charged to pray for our government/leaders. But take a look at what our City is partcipating in and promoting…. so to speak, “which flags are being raised”. Will God bless a community/people who dishonour Him in fashion and deed? Yes, we must have faith and pray, remembering that faith without works is dead.

Last edited 12 days ago by HaroldP
Mrs. Kidd (she/her)

Neither my wife nor I understand how the Pride Flag, which is a symbol of acceptance and inclusion, and signals that we are free to live our lives in safety, harms you or your ilk in anyway.

HaroldP

Did someone say “pride flag”?

This Red Neck Has No Neck

So, Harold, which flags promoting what do you take issue with?

Last edited 12 days ago by This Red Neck Has No Neck
Christopher 999

The police aren’t doing proper traffic duty either. They’re cultivating crime. This is evil. Police don’t want layoffs. Crime is their business.

bkettle1

Where else is a homeless person going to drop a deuce? Businesses do not have public bathrooms or they are for customers only. McDonald’s closes its doors at 10pm, Galt gardens has public bathrooms but they only open two of them for the day and then they get closed at I think 8 or 830pm. There’s sweet frig all open 24 hours.

R.U.Serious

Our tax dollars pay for the shelter which has washrooms! 
On the off chance that you didn’t utilize the washrooms do drugs and overdose in them, bathe, sleep, preventing the paying customers from utilizing them since you have commandeered them and destroy them while doing so, then you would have washrooms. 
You even ruined the portable toilets! 
Washrooms are provided at the library, the bus terminal, the shopping malls and at the shelter 24/7! Your decision and your choices have caused your issues! I have no sympathy for you! 
You have a choice, but you chose to place the high cost of your bad choices on the rest of society. 
Move to the mountains if you want to live like an animal and act as such! Or, relocate to Vancouver! 
They will supply everyone with free safe supply Fentanyl, and safe supply Cocaine, Ketamine, Heroine can all be bought that has been tested for other toxic drugs. 
BC is the place to be if you desire to live this way!

biff

what is this open minded, and decent pace of which you speak? on planet earth – this planet of judgemental, holier than thou fools? h
amazing that out of about 8 billion of us two legged idiots, about 7.9 billion think they are the center of the universe and god’s chosen special one.

R.U.Serious

You can join them there Biff. I am sure they have a social services program to meet your AISH payments you get from the government, or should I say the taxpayers!
And they fit your idea of freedom of choice and lifestyle!



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