Representatives from Edmonton’s ethnic minority groups say gangs and youth crime are the top safety issues their communities face and they are hoping to build a better relationship with police.
On Thursday night, the police commission asked members of the Chief’s Community Advisory Council (CAC) to weigh in on how the police are doing in their communities.
The CAC, which was first established by the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) in 2004, is composed of eight committees representing Aboriginal, African, Black, Chinese, Indo-Canadian, Jewish, Muslim and sexual minorities.
Acting Chief Danielle Campbell said she was not surprised by the feedback presented to the police.
"Certainly groups and gangs that are participating in crime and disorder impacts all of our communities," Campbell said. "Even when we do our citizen surveys, that is a common trend brought forward to our awareness."
Campbell said police are focused on cracking down on gang activity in the city.
"We have specialized units that are working religiously on infiltrating, tearing down and dismantling these groups," Campbell said. "We spent a lot of time with youth, because if we can interact and engage our youth long before they get recruited, we prevent one child from becoming a member of a gang."
Christie Pace, who represented Edmonton’s aboriginal population, said the relationship with the police has “come a long way” from where it was before.
“The Edmonton Police [Service] hasn’t always had a great relationship with aboriginal peoples,” said Christie Pace. “It’s going to take a long time for trust to be built on both sides, for a relationship that’s a strong relationship to be built.”
So far, she says things are going well.
“We need to build a relationship with the EPS so they have a good understanding of what our needs and concerns and issues are in the aboriginal community,” Pace said.
“Through that relationship we can learn how to work together to address all those issues or concerns that our out there in a healthy way and a way that’s informative to the EPS.”
Campbell said the commission takes the feedback to heart.
“They provide tremendous insight,” she said. “We’ve amended policy as a result, as an example, in the past.”
The most important thing, she says, is getting communities talking with police so there is a better understanding of the issues facing Edmonton.