Edmonton mayor unveils steps to curb crime in Chinatown

The City of Edmonton has firmed up steps aimed at preventing crime and disorder in Chinatown as calls for action continue to grow less after two men were killed in the community.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi’s office confirmed the new measures Monday — a few days after Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro gave the city two weeks to come up with an action plan. Sohi is scheduled to meet with Shandro Tuesday to discuss the plan.

 Last week, residents of Chinatown packed a council meeting at city hall to plead for help and on the weekend, hundreds of people demonstrated outside city hall demanding action.

“Things must change, the status quo is absolutely unacceptable,” Sohi said outside city hall Monday. “Chinatown has been neglected for too long, and I assure you, that stops now.” 

The plan launches a Chinatown post-COVID vibrancy fund, starting with $1 million from the city’s financial reserve. 

The mayor’s office recommends that a committee, convened by a city advisory and led by the Chinatown and Area Business Association, disperse the money. 

The city will give a $300,000 grant to the Chinatown and Area Business Association to help pay for private security. 

Businesses had been paying out of their own pockets for private security in the area since early 2001. 

The city said it will start a Chinatown needle cleanup program and daily cleaning of streets and back alleys. 

The plan includes establishing public washrooms and improving the streetscape to help prevent camps from setting up in the core neighbourhood. 

A promotional campaign to attract customers back to Chinatown businesses is also on the list. 

Long-term strategy

The mayor’s office lists a number of longer-term efforts to help restore and revitalize and attract customers back to Chinatown.

“These are very complicated interconnected challenges that we’re facing,” Sohi said. “I’m glad that all of us are listening to that cry for help and we’re willing to work together.” 

It plans to create a five-year strategy to “decentralize” some social service agencies away from the area.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi outside Edmonton city hall Monday unveils city’s steps to prevent further crime and disorder in Chinatown. (Sam Brooks/CBC)

Chinatown and the McCauley neighbourhood have the highest concentration of support services in Edmonton. 

The city wants the province to consider limiting new permits for additional social agencies in Chinatown.

The city’s plan contains a number of advocacy measures, such as asking the province to prohibit releasing health patients from hospitals back into homelessness.

The city calls for coordinated teams under a unified command involving the Edmonton Police Service, fire, social agencies, emergency medical services and municipal peace officers.

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