Calgary ponders Nenshi's plan to spend $25M on crime reduction, addiction and mental health supports

A community leader is asking the City of Calgary to invest more in neighbourhood events as a way to tackle the root causes of increased crime and social disorder in the core.

Beltline community leader suggests investing in public events

City council is looking at an idea from Mayor Naheed Nenshi to allot $25 million from the rainy day fund for crime prevention and a new mental health and addictions strategy. (CBC/ALERT/CBC)

A community leader is asking the City of Calgary to invest more in neighbourhood events as a way to tackle the root causes of increased crime and social disorder in the core.

City council is set to debate a notice of motion on Tuesday from Mayor Naheed Nenshi to allot $25 million from the fiscal stability reserve fund for crime prevention and a new mental health and addictions strategy over the next five years.        

But Peter Oliver, president of the Beltline Neighbourhoods Association, says he'd like to see some of the money used to sponsor community events.

"It's one thing to hire security guards and have more CPS people patrolling the streets, but if you can actually encourage more people to come out and use their public spaces and enjoy their public spaces, you actually achieve the same outcome and probably more effectively. So we think that could be part of the equation, part of the solution," he said.       

Oliver says the community recently hosted a movie night at Central Memorial Park that drew about 300 people.

"I would argue that the events actually are a more effective way of making the park safer by just bringing a more critical mass of people out into the public realm and increasing the number of eyes on the street," he said.

Criminologist Kelly Sundberg applauds Nenshi's plan to combat both mental health and addiction issues.

But he worries the good intentions will fall short of expectations or fall off the radar once the money dries up.

He would like the city to create a team of practitioners, experts and community groups to tackle the issues on a permanent basis.

"What we are lacking is an independent, sustained body, that constantly is identifying what are the concerns in the community, what are the challenges — right now fentanyl, in the past crack, meth," he said.

Nenshi's plan calls for $15 million to be allocated to the Community Services Prevention Investment Framework and $10 million used to create a community-wide mental health, addiction and crime prevention strategy, similar to the 10-year plan to end homelessness.

The city had approximately $2 billion in its reserve fund as of 2016.