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‘Make the Call’: New initiative to curb crime in Alberta Avenue by calling Edmonton police

Crime along 118th Avenue and in the surrounding Alberta Avenue neighbourhood is, sadly, not uncommon and some in the area may be tempted to turn an apathetic blind eye  — but a local organization is hoping businesses and residents in the central Edmonton area will be able to help stop criminals.

A new initiative is encouraging people to make a difference in their own backyards, simply by picking up the phone.

Khalil Tarbine is just one of many business owners in Alberta Avenue. He has owned his barber shop on 118th Avenue for more than 15 years and recently he’s noticed more crime.

“I won’t say the area is 100 per cent, the few incidents did happen I guess with vandalism,” said Tarbine.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton Police Service seeing numbers drop in high-crime areas'

Edmonton Police Service seeing numbers drop in high-crime areas

Tarbine has become used to the crime happening right outside his business, although he wouldn’t mind some extra police coverage.

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“I think a little bit more would be better. I know there is enough presence but a little bit more. Not only in this area, but there is probably a few areas in the city that they should concentrate on a little bit more,” Tarbine said.

A new initiative from Arts on the Ave hopes to inspire nearby residents to do their part and help curb crime. The goal is to get more people to contact the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) no matter the size of the incident.

“Crime was beginning to run the streets and the alleys and people were becoming afraid. When we started hearing that, we’re like we need to do something to start taking back the streets again,” said Arts on the Ave executive director Christy Morin.

“We want to be able to really feel like this is welcoming and safe and a holistic approach to community development.”

Click to play video: '‘Problem properties’ plague Alberta Avenue'

‘Problem properties’ plague Alberta Avenue

Arts on the Ave held multiple engagement sessions with community members and business owners — many of whom say they are hesitant to call police.

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Some, like Collins Studio Gallery owner Jeff Collins, would rather not wait for a long response time to small incidents.

“The biggest issue I have is making a call, then staying on hold for 45 minutes and that’s difficult to do,” Collins said.

Edmonton police were also involved with planning sessions, hoping to improve its own coverage of the area.

“How can we be of service to this community? How can we collectively address the problems that are here, whether that be fires, problem properties, or violence? What levers do we have to collectively work together to address these issues to the best of our ability,” said Enyinnah Okere, chief operating officer for the Edmonton Police Service.

Click to play video: 'Convenience store clerk robbed at knifepoint on 118 Avenue in central Edmonton'

Convenience store clerk robbed at knifepoint on 118 Avenue in central Edmonton

Okere said if more people call, their crime statistics can better reflect what’s actually happening.

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“We need that data. We need to be able to verify that there are problems here. There might be connections to other things, that you as a caller might not know about — that our officers, our analysts, our organization do.”

“The more information that we can get from the community, no matter if it seems futile or fatiguing, the better that we’re able to make resourced decisions,” Okere said.

Arts on the Ave is hoping to make it easier for people in the community to be connected to the resources they need. They created a full list of contacts for those wanting to report an incident.

“We created a website that people could go to that’s almost a cheat card: click here, go there, press two, press eight to be able to call in problem properties, to call in someone who’s in distress, to call in something that is unusual,” Morin said.

“Also how to get those calls made without having to be on the phone frustrated for an hour or two.”

Click to play video: 'Man dies after stolen SUV hits tree during chase in north-central Edmonton'

Man dies after stolen SUV hits tree during chase in north-central Edmonton

Business owners like Tarbine are just one of many who are hopeful for the future of the area if more people make that call.

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“People noticing things are getting a little bit bad, I guess, but I think the city, the police, the community, and businesses — we’re all doing what we can to improve things,” he said.

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