Alberta justice minister demands Edmonton mayor create safety plan for downtown and transit

Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro has invoked Section 30 of the Police Act, giving Edmonton’s mayor two weeks to come up with a public safety plan to address the violence downtown and on transit.

On Thursday, Shandro released his letter to Amarjeet Sohi publicly.

In the letter, Shandro writes: “the people of Edmonton deserve better than what this city council is delivering… Public safety should be your priority, like it is mine.

“At this time, I am requesting you take direct action to address this alarming situation. Within the next two weeks, I will require a public safety plan from you that will increase police response to this disorder and ensure members of the public can use Edmonton’s public transit safely. I look forward to reviewing this plan soon.”

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He said Edmonton Police Service data shows crime in the city’s core rose by 11 per cent in 2021 (from 2,382 incidents of violent crime reported downtown in 2020 to 2,665 incidents reported in 2021).

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Shandro’s letter also cites that data shows crime severity on the LRT and at transit centres has increased by nearly 60 per cent since 2019. The letter says medical incidents on public transit increased 341 per cent from 2019 to 2021. In 2022 so far, there have been 549 LRT and transit centre disturbances, 130 violent incidents and 42 weapon complaints.

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The justice minister says that under Section 30(1) of the Police Act, he can notify city council and request it take the action the minister considers necessary “when, in the opinion of the minister, a municipality that is responsible for providing and maintaining policing services is not: a. providing or maintaining adequate and effective policing services, or b. complying with this Act or the regulations.”

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Shandro has directed the mayor to provide a public safety plan within two weeks.

“I have a responsibility under the Police Act to ensure the people of Edmonton receive the law enforcement protection they deserve,” he said in a news release. “Edmontonians should feel safe and secure when using public transit, visiting restaurants, attending events and walking the streets in their own community.”

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The letter also mentions the deaths of two men in Chinatown last week.

Shandro calls the crime levels in Edmonton’s downtown core and on transit “extremely concerning and unacceptable.”

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On Wednesday, in response to comments about Edmonton crime made by Shandro in the legislature, Councillor Aaron Paquette called for more collaboration from the province and less politics.

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“The irony is the majority of disorder in the city of Edmonton has to do with homelessness, addiction and mental health, which are all within the purview the provincial government,” the Ward Dene representative said.

“As a city, we’re doing everything we can, using taxpayers’ money – basically property tax – to cover the gaps left by the money they’re already paying to the Alberta government for these services which they’re simply not getting.”
Paquette said providing health care isn’t the role of the municipality.

“What we need is funding from the province for housing, for addictions support, for mental support, we need to solve these things, but we also need some funding for police services… The province did reduce the amount of money police services are getting across the province, and we need that restored.”

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NDP Justice Critic Irfan Sabir agreed that addressing the increase in crime requires a wide range of approaches, including “law enforcement, collaboration with all orders of government, support for mental health and addictions, housing, and court resources.

“However, the UCP has made deep cuts to the justice department budget, wrap-around supports and affordable housing for several years. They have also increased barriers to accessing mental health and addiction support, and failed to hire more prosecutors.

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“On every factor that drives violent crime, the UCP has made the situation in Alberta worse,” Sabir said in a statement.

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In his letter to Sohi, Shandro said the Alberta government has provided financial support for municipal transit systems hit hard during the pandemic: $79.5 million, which is being matched by the federal government, to support 26 Alberta municipalities, he said.

The justice minister also said Edmonton received a policing support grant of $26 million for 2021-22.

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“The government of Alberta also supports a wide variety of initiatives to target the root causes of crime and social issues,” Shandro told the mayor. “This is designed to take pressure off the police and move towards more appropriate effective solutions and management of the issues. Examples of these initiatives include, but are not limited to:
· Police and crisis teams,
· Victims services programs, and
· Drug treatment courts.”

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More to come…

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