Calgary

Councillor pushes for change in light of police report on Calgary consumption site

Evan Woolley has introduced a notice of motion that calls for the police to appear before a city committee to provide an update on strategies in the area and lays out some recommendations for immediate steps that could help improve the situation.

Evan Woolley supports facility but wants more done to address neighbours' concerns

Coun. Evan Woolley wants to see immediate steps taken to address an increase in police calls to the safe consumption site in his ward. (Mike Symington/CBC)

A Calgary police report from 2018 that shows an increase in calls for the area around the Sheldon Chumir safe consumption site has the area's city councillor calling for action.

"The mental health and addictions crisis remains one of the most significant and urgent challenges facing Calgary and communities across North America," said Coun. Evan Wolley in a news release.

"The Sheldon M. Chumir Supervised Consumption Services Facility is a vital component in the four pillar drug strategy of harm reduction, prevention, treatment and enforcement in addressing this crisis but it will not be successful if it isn't supported by the neighbourhood and the people who live and work here."

Notice of motion

He has introduced a notice of motion that calls for the police to appear before a city committee to provide an update on strategies in the area and lays out some recommendations for immediate steps that could help improve the situation.

Some of those steps include improved treatment strategies associated with the facility, better monitoring around the site, increased security, increased needle pick ups and discussions around a permanent and centralized police presence in the Centre City. 

Woolley would also like to see an expanded Downtown Outreach Addiction Partnership (DOAP) program dedicated to the Beltline. 

Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman announced a $200,000 grant to harm reduction facility Alpha House to create a DOAP team for the area later the same day.

Woolley's motion followed the release of a Calgary police report examining crime and calls for service within a 250-metre radius of the site, which opened in October 2017. 

There was a marked increase in some, but not all, statistics, and the police service made clear it supports the site. 

Police report

According to the police, calls for service increased 29 per cent versus the three-year average, compared with a Centre City increase of eight per cent and a bump of four per cent in the rest of the city.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, calls related to drug use, possession, trafficking and found drugs soared by 276 per cent, while the Centre City increased by 21 per cent and the rest of the city saw a decline of 11 per cent. 

The other outstanding stat was the increase in vehicle thefts and prowlings. Within the study area, vehicle crime shot up by 63 per cent, while the Centre City rose by only five per cent and the rest of the city remained unchanged. 

In contrast, break and enters around the site were below the Centre City average. Around the Chumir, there was an increase of 45 per cent, versus 55 per cent for the inner city and eight per cent for the rest of the city. 

In terms of calls for violence, the area around the site saw a 47 per cent increase, while the Centre City registered a 35 per cent jump and the rest of the city saw a 26 per cent spike. 

Both the police service and Woolley noted a rise in the use of meth, and the councillor suggested that could be a factor in the crime spike. 

"These increases may be attributed to a surge in use of the [Supervised Consumption Services Facility], the growth and shift to greater methamphetamine consumption, and a proliferation of illegal drug transactions in the immediate vicinity of the SCS," reads his news release. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Drew Anderson is a web journalist at CBC Calgary. Like almost every journalist working today, he's won a few awards. He's also a third-generation Calgarian. You can follow him on Twitter @drewpanderson. Contact him in confidence at drew.anderson@cbc.ca. Signal contact upon request. CBC Secure Drop: www.cbc.ca/securedrop/

With a file from Sarah Rieger

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