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Additional sheriffs on Calgary streets didn't boost perception of safety: report

A 12-week pilot program dispatching a dozen Alberta sheriffs throughout downtown Calgary resulted in an increase in public awareness of uniformed officers but didn't boost the perception of safety, according to a report from the Calgary Police Service (CPS) and the Calgary Downtown Association (CDA).

The final CPS review of the crime reduction enforcement support team (CREST) also shows the partnership between sheriffs and Calgary officers "had limited statistical impact in the broader deployment zones" when it came to crime and social disorder.

The pilot project did, however, increase calls for service in deployment zones and displace crime in "hotspot locations," such as City Hall and Olympic Plaza, Central Memorial Park and Stephen Avenue.

Of the more than 2,500 calls officers attended during the pilot project, the "vast majority" were non-criminal, the report states.

Most of the issues police and sheriffs were called for included suspicious persons, unwanted guests and checks on welfare. Just 157 of the 2,584 calls the officers attended between March and May resulted in criminal charges, police data shows.

"Public-reported crime and social disorder calls for service in the deployment zones showed little-to-no reduction," the final report reads.

The partnership was announced by the Alberta Government in February.

“No one should feel scared or afraid to go out at night,” Mike Ellis, minister of Alberta’s public safety and emergency services, said when announcing the project.

"So I think in the sense of the increased visibility, (we) achieved our goal, but if it was to address some of the safety issues that we're still seeing in the downtown, I think we've fallen short," said Mark Garner, the executive director of the CDA.

The downtown association helped direct the police-sheriff project and conducted the survey about safety perception that the final report is based on.

The project may not have boosted the perception of safety, Garner said, but it was not a failure.

The short-term increase of uniformed officers showed the need for a better long-term solution, which has to include an approach that goes beyond policing.

"You can't just do strong enforcement," Garner said.

"You also have to have collaborative outreach. You need to have places for people to go. You need housing."

The CDA found 56 per cent of the businesses and residential agencies who were surveyed did not feel safer during the pilot project, while 85 per cent would support the deployment of additional sheriffs in the downtown in the future.

When CPS officers were asked whether they would take part in another partnership with sheriffs downtown, only 14 per cent said yes.

"While the stats and some of the public opinion may not have gone as far as we would have liked, the benefits of just this level of engagement really will go on for years," said Supt. Scott Boyd with the Calgary Police Service.

"We all want Calgarians to feel safer. We all want them to see enhanced presence, and efforts like this go a long way to allowing us to make that a reality as we work for a common cause," he said.

The province responded to a request for comment late Wednesday.

"Alberta’s government supports the Calgary Police Service as they work to keep Albertans safe," said Minister Ellis. "I have said many times that officer presence matters, and we stand at the ready if the CPS would like more of a visible sheriff presence on LRT platforms and trains in order to keep Calgarians safe.

"We have been told by EPS and CPS the sheriff's pilot project was making a difference and that is why Edmonton chose to continue the program." Top Stories

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