July 19th, 2024

Optimism exists about the downtown core


By Lethbridge Herald on July 4, 2024.

Patrons enjoy lunch on the patio of the Telegraph Taphouse in downtown Lethbridge on Thursday afternoon. While some say the city’s core has crumbled into chaos, others hold a more optimistic outlook on the challenges being faced downtown. Herald photo by Justin Sibbet

Editor’s note: This is the third and final article in a three-part series. In coming days, we will start running another series by Herald reporter Alexandra Noad examining the southern Alberta opioid crisis through an Indigenous lens.

Justin Sibbet – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

While some residents say the downtown core has crumbled into chaos, others hold a more optimistic outlook on the challenges facing residents and employees in Lethbridge’s core.

Sarah Amies, Chief Executive Officer of the Downtown BRZ and member of the Downtown Lawlessness Reduction Task Force, says people shouldn’t let the perceptions of others get in the way of their own experiences.

“I encourage people to put aside those perceptions, see for themselves. If they are just listening to other people’s perceptions, perhaps take an afternoon, do it on a quiet afternoon perhaps and just wander around and see that downtown really is friendly, open for business and welcoming.”

She says when good people come downtown, the issues tend to vanish from view.

“I see people flocking to the downtown when there is something happy and positive to celebrate,” said Amies. 

“I do believe that people continuing to come downtown normalizes that aspect and demographic in the downtown. Honestly, the more engagement, the more activity we have in the downtown, the less likely we are to see the negative element.”

As for any concerns over a lack of police presence, Amies says more officers would be able to increase safety.

“The police service is under resourced and has to triage every single situation with respect to the level of public safety, property, those kinds of things,” said Amies.

Kristen Saturley, a spokesperson for the Lethbridge Police Service, says this is true and police protocol dictates how responses will be managed, based on severity.

“When a person calls the Public Safety Communications Centre, calls are prioritized based on the circumstances reported and LPS policy directs the response. Police attend both emergent and non-emergent calls, but the circumstances of each incident determine the priority and response.”

To ensure the protocol is clear, Saturley says there are three levels of priority each call can be assessed as.

“A priority one call includes crimes in progress where there is an imminent threat to life or a person is being harmed. A priority two call involves a crime in progress, where there is reasonable cause to believe that a person may be harmed. In both cases, police are dispatched immediately. Priority three calls involve a crime that has just occurred and a response is required to increase the likelihood of catching the suspect or the suspect may return to the scene. Police also respond to calls that are deemed lower priority, but those cases involve non-emergent situations where there is no imminent threat and immediate attendance is not required.”

However, Barry Ewing, a resident living in a downtown condo, says police are still unavailable at times, giving examples as recently as this spring.

 In a letter addressed to several community leaders and shared with the Herald, Ewing says there have been times where he has not witnessed the normal amount of officers patrolling the downtown core, leaving a window open for criminals to stay in the open.

“The lack of police is unacceptable!”

In a later email, Ewing says he supports the police, but he is simply tired of the issues facing his community and he does not want to wait any longer for results to become evident.

“I support LPS, but there must be something done in the meantime to end the loitering on our streets and parks since it will be (two) years before we (see) tangible results from the new recruits. I just walked through Galt Gardens, with several open drug users, several blocking the sidewalk by the washrooms and under the canopy, so I had to walk around… we want our park back!”

While police may not always be right around the corner, the police spokesperson says there are steps to be taken by residents to keep safe.

“Not every incident can be prevented, but there are definitely steps people can take to reduce the risk of victimization. Property crime is largely opportunistic so it’s important to take steps that reduce those opportunities.”

Saturley says those steps include locking vehicle, gate and home doors, removing valuables, not leaving vehicles running while unattended and using motion sensor lights to act as a deterrent.

“With respect to personal safety, it’s important to always be aware of your surroundings. Staying alert is often your best defence.”

This includes parking in well-lit and well-travelled areas, sticking with friends, avoiding alleys while remaining in well-populated areas, keeping vehicle doors locked while inside, checking vehicles before entering and carrying cash or other valuables in front pockets.

Beyond police, councillor John Middleton-Hope says the Downtown Lawlessness Reduction Task Force can also help facilitate change downtown.

“We have managers from our administration that are there and we have members of council that are there, so we have decision makers,” said Middleton-Hope. “That’s critical to being able to make right, fit decisions for the problems that we’re experiencing in the downtown.”

Mayor Blaine Hyggen says the task force also offers residents a chance to speak freely to the aforementioned decision makers.

“We’d like to see, to be honest, additional folks in the gallery to be able to share some of their concerns that they’re feeling,” said Hyggen.

 “It’s open to the public and we welcome anyone to come.”

He says the conversations between the various involved members and residents has created an important dialogue in Lethbridge.

“Collaborating with these groups and sharing ideas has been amazing,” said Hyggen. “We’ve (had) a lot of information brought to the task force, a lot of answers to questions that we’ve had.”

Middleton-Hope says this is a two-way street though. He says residents who feel change needs to be done should attend the meetings so they can hear firsthand what is happening in their community.

“People also need to hear what work we’re doing and that’s really, really important as well,” said Middleton-Hope. “I think sometimes that’s lost. It’s lost in the clatter of collateral conversation.”

The task force has been around since December 2023. 

Police say any resident who is witnessing, or involved in, an emergency or crime in progress should call 911. She says the complaints line is for crimes that are no longer in progress or for non-emergency concerns, such as a person acting suspiciously.

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Dennis Bremner

If the Lawlessness meetings are open and discuss the problems we have, that’s great!
Questions:
1) I talked to 2 individuals who were smoking crack on a lawn above Henderson Lake. One was from Medicine Hat, had just arrived, and came here because she was told it was a “party city” and could get housing. She would not say how she got here, because she was told not too! So, have you confronted the “Destination Lethbridge Shuttle Service MSTH? If not, why not?
2) Has the Lawlessness Committee talked to Chief Fox Directly about Blood Policy, I am not talking about a representative of a representative, an actual one on one with Chief Fox?
3) What discussion have occurred that stop Lethbridge from being a destination for the MSTH or Mayors of other cities?
4) Have you had discussions with the Police Chief to investigate and identify, and if possible charge the Shuttle Drivers that are cleaning up their towns and cities at the expense of ours?
5) If you have no place for a criminal to go- courts are backlogged, and you have no place for Addicts to go, other than to support LHA’s hope to move them into every part of our cities residential area, is this your solution to downtown?
6) If you have no “second shelter” where the non-violent and truly homeless can stay, why do you not see this spreading like a fungus throughout Lethbridge(it has already begun)?
7) If your objective is to manage what is, without addressing these out of Lethbridge’ Control issues and solving them first, will you say so?
8) If you have NO answer to an ever-increasing pile of addicts and criminals, other than to wash their feet, feed, clothe, offer personalized and immediate medical services, heel their wounds, LHA house them in residential areas and make them feel welcomed, then let them wreck havoc on this city, will you be honest and say so?

Last edited 13 days ago by Dennis Bremner
ewingbt

Thank you Justin Sibbet and the Herald for a well balanced series of reports which included comments from several agencies/politicians.
The residents and businesses must get involved, they must speak out for change to be expedited. Police are understaffed, burned out, but there are other ways, other tools so to speak which can be used.
Where there is a will, there is way! The Downtown Lawlessness Task Force usually meets the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of each month (summer may change some of those) at 7:30 am to 9:00 am. People should attend and express their concerns, make their voices heard. You are allowed 5 minutes to express those concerns.
There is a lot of information shared in most of these meetings. The Mayor and Councillor Middleton-Hope agree people should come to these and other meetings or at the very least, contact Council or write an email to Council or the committees. The contact information is on the website for Council and committees.
People have a voice, and if you want change, make it heard!
We have to start somewhere and the encampment strategy worked, and using some of the same principles, a vagrancy strategy will work.
We have the programs in place for it to work. The non-profits will not like it who are making money, nor will those who have plans to make money on their future plan projects.
This is our city and we have a choice. We have a choice what happens on our streets.
What happens on our streets is what we allow to happen and right now it is a free for all at times!
A message has to be sent to the criminals that they will not be able to get away with their tactics on our streets anymore.
When Alpha House ships people to Lethbridge in their vans from Calgary, as we see happen, it should be communicated to them this is unacceptable and those people should be sent back to Calgary where they have supports already in place and family and other ties. Alpha House and other agencies should be called out for doing this!
Medicine Hat does the same thing! We are trying to clean up our city and they are trying to prevent us from succeeding.
The Blood Tribe needs to be called out as well for banishing their problem people to our streets, streets which I call the killing fields . . . and the Blood Tribe policies, which include telling their people that if they want to drink and do drugs, go to Lethbridge and do it there, where they often end up for a few weeks, but again some die while here, the killing fields!
They all need to be called out for doing so!
This is a not just a law enforcement issue, it involves serious communication with other communities, effective treatment programs, strategic social services as to not increase abuse, and oversight that the shelter is providing the services and safety it is required to do so, under law.
There are reports that the shelter is sliding back into having the same issues as Alpha House. No one is above the law and all have to follow the law. The shelter has been better run after they took over, but they have a duty of care to provide a safe environment for users, it is only supposed to be a temporary, short-term facility as well, not a base of operations for those who have decided to come to our city and disrespect our city, with no intention of finding work or their own residence.
We do not need another shelter in this city! Build it and they will come! The Alpha Houses and other cities will just ship more people to our city if we build more shelter space.
For now, we need to start somewhere and enforcing laws to reduce lawlessness will have a big impact on protecting citizens and their properties. This isn’t rocket science! Common sense needs to be brought back to our society . . . remember common sense?

Last edited 13 days ago by ewingbt
Dennis Bremner

You said: We do not need another shelter in this city!  Build it and they will come! 
I would agree with that, when i referred to a second shelter for non-violent types, it does not have to be in another building. The Doorman directs “Florence Nightingale into the shelter, and Ivan the terrible gets directed to the Basement..
Re:Alpha House Vans, MSTH Vans etc etc.
The city is not controlling how many people come here, the money makers are! I was and am still the Anti-Christ for calling out the feet washers for killing this city, you may still disagree but you are bending in the right direction! I am glad for this comment Barry!
The non-profits will not like it who are making money, nor will those who have plans to make money on their future plan projects.
The day we have a “Enough is Enough rally and more than 50 people show up. I will get a tad optomistic, until then I am fence sitting not because I don’t care but because no one wants to hear what Ibelieve is the only solution.

Last edited 13 days ago by Dennis Bremner
ewingbt

I have not changed my thoughts . . . you haven’t been listening!
I like Alvin Mills and his dedication, but I believe his camp should be out in Standoff where the families of those are, where the detox is and where the new treatment facility will be. His camp is part of the full process, if in fact he will not allow drug use in it, except for prescribed drugs to help with withdrawals.
I will never change on this, but I continue to support him. I haven’t talked to him since last year.
You really do not know what my ideas are other than needed our police ranks brought up to national levels and getting them support to help secure downtown until then, or how to do that without pushing the same people into other parts.
We have some common ground in some areas, but some very different ideas in others. I have worked the streets, live in the middle of the ‘Hood” and see it every day and every hour almost and do business downtown, speak to business owners, some who are friends and after attending all the meetings and speaking with various levels of administration and front line workers, I have a better idea than most, including yourself. Many of your comments show you need to take the time to find the truth, first hand and since you served, you must have retianed some of the training in observing and analyzing what you have seen.
Common sense and awareness brings good understanding of the issues.
I have hope in downtown and appreciate the efforts by the DBRZ to bring people back downtown, but we must make sure when they come they leave with a good perspective and that means not coming back to their vehicle and finding the window smashed and articles missing.
That is a lawless act and is unacceptable!
Moms Stop the Harm in my mind are increasing the harm and if they transport people here they should be called out. I have zero respect for an organization that herds people around just so they can make money and increase their presence!
We need to have a close look at non-profits which often receive tax dollars and hide under the guise of non-profits where they get benefits and earn wages which are often inflated.
I have no issues with churches assisting in this crisis and historically they were the primary ones providing social services and medical care.
The Ivy League institutions were all founded under Christian principles as were many hospitals.
Treatment programs which have a Christian base have had the highest success rates, including the one in the US I researched and spoke with the founder.
When we met to plan events and the meeting, did I try to convert you or the others? NO! You keep on bringing this up in your comments, yet I do not! What does it have to do with the article or my comments?
The articles were well written and unbiased and I look forward to change in the downtown and people standing up for their city and voicing their concerns to Council and leadership! Please go to the meetings and express your concerns . . . go the police information sessions and meet your police leaders and members. We have a great city . . . let’s take it back from the criminals and save tens of millions of your tax dollars!

Dennis Bremner

I have no issues with churches assisting either. Its there “we serve them where they are” and contribute to the problem. Of course we offer no other option because no one wants to hear it.
I keep bringing this up in my comments because over 50 years of this you learn a few things. When change is attempted, radical change is attempted, the churches are the first to call you out for “Harrassing the down and out” why? Because they have an entirely different code for determining down and out. So either we realign and get what we now have, or we Re-Align the churches.
You said:Many of your comments show you need to take the time to find the truth, first hand and since you served, you must have retianed some of the training in observing and analyzing what you have seen.
I have had the unique opportunity to watch and assist Norweigan, Swedish, Danish. German. English, Irish, Portugese, French, Scottish, American,Brazilian Nurses assist Addicts in those countries. The one thing that is common, is the Addict. As much as you want to make Lethbridge Addicts unique, they are not. We have cultural issues that can be compared with numerous minorities in all of these countries. So you can suggest I do not understand, but I assure you I understand fully.
Out of all of the countries above, the only solution was to relent, enable and allow a continuance of drugs. I wanted Lethbridge to be different. It won’t be if we do not think outside the box.
Most find that re-defining human rights for a group. I have no issue with that because they seem to be able to “redefine society unencumbered”, redefine security of self, redefine freedom to walk streets safely, redefine personal property ownership and in the extreme redefie how long I am allowed to live on the planet!
So redefining their rights within the limits of a drooling senior works for me!

Last edited 13 days ago by Dennis Bremner
pursuit diver

As we now see the US Supreme Court make encampments-sleeping in public spaces illegal here is a remember what laws we have:
First:
Trespassing at night
177 Every person who, without lawful excuse, loiters or prowls at night on the property of another person near a dwelling-house situated on that property is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
The crime of trespassing is more of a provincial issue than a federal one, as most provinces have enacted their own laws dealing with the issue. Section 177 of the Criminal Code addresses the crime of trespassing at night, stating it is illegal to loiter or prowl at night near the home of another person.
The purpose of any trespass legislation is to give landowners greater control over their property. While trespassing is usually defined as the unlawful entry onto the private land of another, it also includes performing an unlawful activity on the land and refusing to leave when told to do so.
Police can also arrest you after you have left the premises if they believe that you have just committed a trespass.
In Alberta, government information in (Protecting property owners) about the Trespass Statutes (Protecting Law-abiding Property Owners) Act notes that while the legislation is intended to protect landowners from trespassers, property owners need to remember that they can be held criminally responsible for their actions and they should call law enforcement to deal with trespassers.
The federal charge of trespassing by night is always treated as a summary conviction, so those found guilty face a maximum sentence of two years minus a day in jail.
In Alberta, maximum fines up can reach $10,000 for a first offence and $25,000 for subsequent offences, as well as possible prison time of up to six months. In addition, corporations that help or direct trespassers can be fined up to $200,000.
Second:
Lethbridge City Public Safety Bylaw 6280
Anti-Social Behaviors
5            Littering
(1)         A person shall not leave any garbage, litter, waste or other refuse in a Public Place except in a container designed and intended for such use;
6            Spitting
(1)         A person shall not spit on another person or the external surface of any building, structure or other personal property in a Public Place.
7            Urination/Defecation
(1)         A person shall not urinate or defecate in a Public Place except in a facility designated and intended for such use;
8            Fighting
(1)         A person shall not participate in a fight or other similar physical confrontation in a
Public Place;
9            Public Harassment
(1)         A person shall not repeatedly communicate, cause or permit communication, either directly or indirectly with another person in any Public Place in a way that causes the person, reasonably in all the circumstances to feel harassed, fearful, troubled, worried or badgered;
(2)         A person shall not act in a manner in a Public Place that causes another person, reasonably in all the circumstances to feel harassed, troubled, worried or badgered,
10          Panhandling
(1)         A person shall not solicit charity in an aggressive manner in any Public Place;
(2)         For the purpose of this section, and without limiting the generality of the phrase, a
person shall be considered to be soliciting charity in an “aggressive manner” if they:
(a)         obstruct or impede the passage of another person;
(b)         make continued requests or solicitations after receiving a negative response from another person;
(c)          insult, threaten, coerce or intimidate another person;
(d)         make physical contact with another person or a motor vehicle.
11          Weapons
(1)         A person shall not possess any loaded weapon, capable of launching or firing a projectile, in a Public Place;
(2)         A person shall not cause or permit a weapon to launch or fire a projectile in a Public

SophieR

Interesting. What laws are there against vigilantism?

Does “Public Harassment: A person shall not repeatedly communicate, cause or permit communication, either directly or indirectly with another person in any Public Place …” apply to vigilantes? Oh, oh. Looks like one of our Commenters should go to gaol …

pursuit diver

Are you a vigilante? Or a Google law enforcer?
If you know of a vigilante perhaps you report them to police.
You were almost sued for making false accusations a couple of years ago. You may think you are posting anonymously but there is no such thing.

pursuit diver

Not just civil law, but criminal!
Public mischief

  • 140 (1) Every one commits public mischief who, with intent to mislead, causes a peace officer to enter on or continue an investigation by
  • (a) making a false statement that accuses some other person of having committed an offence;
  • (b) doing anything intended to cause some other person to be suspected of having committed an offence that the other person has not committed, or to divert suspicion from himself;
  • (c) reporting that an offence has been committed when it has not been committed; or
  • (d) reporting or in any other way making it known or causing it to be made known that he or some other person has died when he or that other person has not died.

SV

SophieR

So, let me get this straight, SV, your legal references to harassment and loitering are only for the vulnerable, but not for upastanding, white christians? No ‘intent to mislead’ here.

buckwheat

Issue here is that 311 and bylaw officers don’t work weekends.

SophieR

O, I see. That’s the issue here.

buckwheat

5 days a week 8:30-4:30 Mon -Fri weekends off just doesn’t cut it. About the same as have a designated drug investigation section that doesn’t work at night and has the weekend off

HaroldP

Interesting report subsequent to the previous reports regarding issues downtown Lethbridge. Do I find the optimism that is being suggested to be realistic at this point in time? Definitely, not! It seems we’re being encouraged to go downtown, while chaining and locking our vehicles in well-lit places. Then maneuvering down the streets watching in front behind and beside us and being sure that we’re accompanied by someone and then only going to certain areas, not through alleys or through perhaps parks where you might be accosted, and/or run into situations that are undesirable. No, not interested in heading downtown anytime soon. I do have a bank which is downtown downtown I have to frequent there from time to time and with the lovely bike lanes that are now installed, even this makes it difficult for me to do my business and get out of there as soon as possible.

“Come downtown for a leisuely stroll”…. no thanks, not at this point in time, it’s just not worth the risk and concern of what one might run into.

IMO

Sarah Amies says “when good people come downtown, the issues tend to vanish from view.”
This is an out-and-out rubbish statement.
No amount of “good people” coming downtown is going to make any change until the “issues” are dealt with at the source. Otherwise, it remains an unending money pit building this field of dreams.

buckwheat

So it’s out of site out of mind. What a baseless comment.



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