'Deeply concerning to me': Evan Woolley not happy with Vic Park police station closure
Business group says police station provided 'degree of psychological assurance'
A city councillor is not happy with the closure of Calgary's only downtown police station, especially in light of a supervised drug consumption site that recently opened mere blocks away.
"It was a surprise to me," Coun. Evan Woolley told CBC News on Friday.
"I am worried that the loss of the only police station in downtown Calgary will have a significant impact on the residents and businesses that it has been supporting to date. I don't think we have properly addressed what the solutions to that might be."
Woolley's Ward 8 used to include the station until ward boundaries were redrawn prior to the civic election last month. Today his ward is adjacent to it.
Finding financial efficiencies
Calgary police announced the Victoria Park office would permanently close on Sunday, with officers being moved about 2.5 kilometres southeast to the Ramsay station.
"By combining the two stations into one, the service will be able to redeploy officers to address crime reduction strategies as necessary, enhance front counter service at other District 1 stations, and support efforts to find financial efficiencies," police said in a press release Thursday.
Police say a mobile station will be located in the core during weekday business hours that will lead to "no decrease in the level of policing service downtown."
The executive director of the Victoria Park Business Improvement Area says while he understands the rationale, the closure will still have an impact on how people feel about safety.
"It did provide a certain degree of psychological assurance for people in the area. They knew that even if they didn't need it, that it was there," David Low explained.
"Not so long ago this area was not a happy place to be and the addition of the police station certainly went a long way to helping mitigate a lot of the negatives that we have."
Low concedes that online incident reporting and the ability to access police through social media has changed the need for a physical station, and that Victoria Park has fewer socio-economic challenges than in the past.
Mobile station not enough
Still, the president of the Beltline Neighbourhoods Association says that mobile station is just not enough.
"I think [a mobile station] actually reiterates that they realize they need to have a local presence," Peter Oliver said.
"I mean, if we didn't need local presence of police in terms of stations, then we would just have one central station for the whole city, but obviously that's not the case."
Oliver says with the social challenges the Beltline continues to face, it doesn't make sense not to have an accessible, permanent storefront police station.
Meanwhile, Woolley says the closure is bad timing.
"We need to remember that we have opened a supervised consumption site at the Sheldon Chumir," he said.
Woolley adds some people won't be happy.
"This is deeply concerning to me. We need to get a plan together for how we are going to respond to concerns from businesses and residents," he said.