Medicine Hat, AB - “If your downtown is failing, there’s not a lot of optimism for the rest of your community,” said Michael Harrington, owner of Valhalla Pure Outfitters downtown.
Trying to bring that optimism to downtown is what launched the patrol initiative.
Inspector Brent Secondiak says that police were being told by citizens they didn't feel safe in the area.
“Our priority street crime units have been redeployed for the summer months to basically ease the fear of crime in the downtown core,” said Secondiak. “We’ve had lots of concerns about some people downtown causing more public nuisance files, property issues, mischief, just minor criminal offences.”
Four members from the Priority Street Crimes Unit patrol the downtown core on foot.
They make contact with those who may be causing a problem, but also speak with businesses owners like Harrington to hear their concerns.
“It has really helped and now I’m talking to people saying that maybe downtown is the safest place in Medicine Hat,” the businessman said. “There’s lots of light, there’s lots of people, there’s lots of eyes of you, and there’s lots of police. And the police are super friendly.”
The unit has not only made an impression on business owners, but has had a number of successes. They’ve executed about 25 arrest warrants and made contact with over 500 citizens.
“So I think it’s just having that presence, police presence there. Letting people know that everyone has to enjoy the downtown core. And that if you’re there and you’re breaking the law, you’ll be warned and you might be ticketed,” Secondiak said.
Harrington believes a safer downtown is changing people’s attitude towards the area and encouraging more traffic.
“They are more willing to come downtown, they are more excited to come downtown, they feel safe.” He said. “And we’re seeing a really big and pleasing shift in the attitude of people coming downtown. They are saying things like ‘we’re just doing downtown.’”
Currently the four officers have been working one day shift and three night shifts.
Due to the early success of the program though, especially during the day, police are considering adding more patrols to the area.
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