Whyte Avenue businesses call for more beat officers to curb social disorder

Priced at more than $700, an orange electric guitar sits among other shiny stringed instruments at Long & McQuade on Whyte Avenue in Edmonton.

It was recently stolen during the second of two recent instances of vandalism at the music store on 82 Avenue.

Assistant manager Lara Tang said last weekend someone threw a brick through a front door, entered and left with the guitar.

About a week earlier, a passerby did something similar, minus the theft.

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“Somebody, at two in the morning, took a piece of a fire hydrant and threw it through the window,” said Tang.

Long & McQuade isn’t the only Whyte Avenue business using plywood for window panes currently. The Old Strathcona Business Association (OSBA) said about a dozen businesses also had a front window smashed or shattered.

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A smashed window at a Whyte Avenue bank near 109 Street. Dan Grummett / Global News

Executive director Cherie Klassen said the incidents have added to a growing perception that social disorder in the area has increased in the past year.

“It’s small things sometimes, but it’s also the big things. We’ve had somebody come in, see a guitar on the wall and just book it out of the store,” said Tang.

Click to play video: 'Outlook ‘positive’ for recovery of Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue'

Outlook ‘positive’ for recovery of Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue

Klassen said businesses and bars have expressed concerns about staff and patron safety.

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Operator of Community Taps, just off Whyte Ave, said his staff have had recent unpleasant interactions with non-customers.

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“There’s some people that have come into businesses. People either like trying to get away from the cold, intoxicated, over-served somewhere else or maybe they (consumed) their own stuff. It’s hard to know,” said Tyler Olson, who would like to see an increased police presence in the area.

“On the days there isn’t coverage from the (beat patrols), we’re just having to deal with more issues than we would like to have to deal with,” said Olson. “Servers. Bartenders. They are just not trained to deal with it.”

Currently, the OSBA says beat patrols run on Whyte Avenue between Tuesday and Saturday, mainly in the evening hours.

Lillo’s School of Modern Music also experienced vandalism. Dan Grummett / Global News

At Thursday’s police commission meeting, Klassen expressed concerns to EPS Chief Dale McFee on behalf of members. Asked after the meeting if EPS could accommodate the request, McFee indicated that resources would not allow it.

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“We are getting numerous requests for more police presence. It’s coming in every day,” said McFee. “At the end of the day, if we’re going to do that, we’re going to have to invest in more bodies.”

EPS is trying to maximize resources, even moving to a different model in November to increase front-line policing.

Officers managed to recover that stolen guitar from Long & McQuade a day after the alleged theft from a person in alley not far away, according to Tang, who said EPS doesn’t have a regular beat patrol on that particular block of Whyte Avenue between 108 and 109 streets, where the spate of recent window smashing occurred.

“They’re only called whenever there’s trouble, which seems to be increasing and yeah, having a familiar face would be nice,” Tang said.

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