Rally outside city hall calls for more security, solutions to crime in Chinatown
Organizer says community was afraid before killings of 2 men; now people are angry
A few hundred people rallied outside city hall Saturday morning for more security in Edmonton's Chinatown neighbourhood, where two men were recently killed.
Edmonton police have charged Justin Bone, 36, with two counts of second-degree murder for the May 18 deaths of Hung Trang, 64, and Ban Phuc Hoang, 61.
Trang died after being assaulted inside Albert's Auto Body on 98th Street; Hoang was found injured outside Universal Electronics & Video Inc., about a block away, and died on scene.
"Before these [deaths] everybody was afraid. We are angry now," said Wen Wang, executive director of Chinatown Business Improvement Area, which organized the event — called the Rally for Safety in Chinatown.
Chinatown, located near downtown, has been around for over a century. The area currently has a reputation for having a lot of homeless people, crime and drug use.
Michael Lee, vice-chair of the Chinese Benevolent Association of Edmonton, described the situation as an "urban disaster."
Many residents and business owners are primarily worried about safety and security. Second, they're worried about the social aspects at the root of the problems, Lee said.
"The incident that happened a few weeks ago, it feels shocking for a lot of us, but I don't want to say it was a surprise," Lee said. "It was kind of the straw that broke the camel's back.
"If we don't do something, we are not going to solve the long-term problem that's afflicting a lot of the people around this district."
Earlier this week, Edmonton city council listened to members of the public, including Trang's daughter, who pleaded for greater security measures in Chinatown.
Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro also used a ministerial power under the province's Police Act to force the city to enhance policing downtown and on the city's transit system. In a letter addressed to Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi, he cited the recent deaths in Chinatown.
The city outlined Friday how it should respond to the justice minister. Council had already approved $300,000 that will be spent on private security; $1 million from the city's financial stabilization fund will also be used to create a Chinatown recovery fund through the city manager's office.
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Other actions, such as improved streetscaping, installing public washrooms and picking up needles, are in the works, according to the city.
"We've got a community that's obviously grieving. They want to do some things that are different. They're in need of help," said Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee, who attended Saturday's rally.
"We need to find solutions and we need to find them quick. That's my commitment to them."
Those solutions, however, do not entirely lie on the police service, McFee said. In cases where the root cause of criminal activity relates to mental health or addiction, for example, those people need to be connected to the appropriate services.
"We have a lot of resources now. We just need to align them," he said.
Lee said the community is calling on everyone — from government and police, to community organizations and private businesses — to come together and develop a plan as a team.
With files from Emily Fitzpatrick