Edmonton to hire 40 officers to police downtown

As downtown Edmonton continues to boom, so will the number of police patrolling the streets.

Violent crime already up by 22 per cent downtown

Edmonton Police officers patrolling Jasper Avenue. (CBC)

As downtown Edmonton continues to boom, so will the number of police patrolling the streets.

City council approved $6.4 million to hire 40 new officers who will be assigned specifically to police downtown specifically.

Police Chief Rod Knecht said the addition of the new arena, the Alberta Museum, the new LRT line, as well as the growing number of shops and restaurants will make downtown a hotspot for crime. 

"That's 30,000 people downtown," Knecht said. "We have to police those people and keep them safe."

This heat map shows where downtown crime is most frequent. The map will be used to decide where to deploy new officers. (Edmonton Police Service)
Knecht said violent crimes downtown rose 22 per cent last year and officers are already stretched thin.

He said the force will start recruiting right away to alleviate the pressure as soon as possible.

Councillors turned down Knecht's original request for more officers during budget deliberations last year, but changed their minds after the province bumped up speeding fines, making photo radar more lucrative for the city. 

"Finding a way to do this without going back to taxpayers was important for council," said Mayor Don Iveson.

"Certainly, we've heard a lot of support from people who've said, 'If you're going to have photo radar fines use it for things like policing,' so this is a no brainer for us."

In December, council decided that photo radar revenue would be used only for traffic safety initiatives, policing, and community projects.

Knecht told council the new positions were such a high priority, the force would need to pull resources from traffic safety if they weren't able to hire new officers.

That swayed Iveson to support Knecht's request.

"This allows them to maintain their deployment for traffic safety, which is also a good way of catching bad guys," Iveson said.

Council also approved $712,000 to hire nine officers to police LRT stations and trains.

Knecht said he hopes to continue the success of last years' pilot project, which involved pairing transit peace officers with police which boosted arrests by 47 per cent.


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