A new report suggests there is a perception the issues of safety and security, harassment and homelessness are getting worse in Edmonton’s downtown.
The Downtown Business Association study was based on the input of 60 people who attended a security forum in November. The group — which included city staff, politicians, residents, business owners and support agency representatives — were asked to identify perceived security challenges and possible solutions.
According to the report, the group said there has been an increase in theft, random attacks at LRT stations and homelessness. The group believed an increase in the number of people in downtown as a result of residential development, new amenities and the economic downturn was part of the issue.
The report noted the perception that homelessness is correlated with crime, downtown being unsafe and an increase in gang-activity have presented further challenges.
LRT expansion, building relationships with the at-risk population and the increasing residential population were opportunities to create “a more comfortable environment,” the report suggested.
When it comes to homelessness, the group felt the challenges for those individuals are intensifying across the city. The study suggested there has been an increase in aggression, insecurity and business-owner frustration as a result of more people using their areas to rest and get out of the cold.
In 2016, there were 1,752 people living without a permanent residents according to the Homeward Trust homeless count, down 43 per cent from the highest count in 2008 of 3,079.
The study also found there is a belief that theft has increased and little is being done about it by police.
“Police take information but do nothing,” one respondent wrote, according to the report.
The Edmonton Police Service Neighbourhood Crime Map suggested there were 133 incidents of assault, break and enter, homicide robbery, sexual assaults, theft from vehicle, theft of vehicle or theft over $5,000 in downtown in January, which was an increase from the previous two years.
The map also showed there have been 88 incidents of the same crimes in the area in February, which is comparable to the previous two years.
Additionally, the group suggested harassment is a concern across the city and people requiring help do not have enough support. They said residents limit what they do after 8 p.m. due to fear of harassment, police are under too much resource pressure to be proactive and there is inadequate support for offenders.
The report offered several solutions to deal with the issues downtown, which include agencies, organizations and residents across the city collaborating to address the causes, dispel myths, work on the root causes of the problems and have governments work with stakeholders on the challenges.