Cst. Pete Tasker is seen patrolling around the Sheldon Chumir Health Centres safe injection site on Friday, August 9, 2019.
Despite an increased police presence surrounding Calgary’s only supervised drug consumption site, crime and disorder in the immediate area appear to still be on the rise this year, newly released statistics show.There were 883 calls to police from the public within the 250-metre zone near the Safeworks consumption site, located inside the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre, from April to June, according to a report released Friday by Calgary police.That figure is 40 per cent higher than the three-year average for the quarter. Unwanted guests, suspicious persons and checks on welfare were the most frequent types of calls.In January, police reported that the zone surrounding the Chumir centre had seen a spike in drug, violent and property crimes since the Safeworks site began operating 24/7 in April 2018.
A “Spare Change Please” sign is seen in the old South Calgary Funeral Centre along 2nd St. and 17th Ave. SW near the Sheldon Chumir Health Centres safe injection site.
Brendan Miller /
Nearby incidents prompted 701 calls to police during the final three months of 2018, followed by 694 from January to March of this year.Calgary police responded by increasing officer patrols and drug trafficking enforcement near the site, while also setting up a mobile command vehicle.Daily needle cleanups began near the Chumir centre and security surveillance was also beefed up at the nearby Central Memorial Park, following a $1 million allocation approved by council in March.Some community members were optimistic that those efforts were succeeding after February and March saw a decline in calls for service — 165 and 239, respectively — after 290 this past January.The numbers, however, appeared to rebound this spring. The new report showed there were 287 calls to police in April, followed by 304 in May and 292 in June.
A needle drop box outside the Sheldon Chumir safe ingestion site in Calgary was photographed on Thursday May 9, 2019. Gavin Young/Postmedia
Gavin Young /
Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld said the increase in calls to police was a function of the public having better access to patrol officers in the area.“On the one hand, if you were just looking at the numbers, you might say, ‘Well actually this isn’t a good thing, it doesn’t look like it’s a win,’” Neufeld said. “On the other hand, I think one of the ways I would define success in this regard is, ‘Are people feeling safer?’”Police-generated calls for service — those initiated from proactive police work in the area — were higher than ever from April to June. There were 885 such calls in the 250-metre zone, compared to 520 during the three previous months.Neufeld said the report shows a correlation between usage of services at the Chumir centre and calls to police. For every two unique safe consumption site users, there has been an increase of one call to police.More than 1,040 unique visitors used the site’s services in June over nearly 5,300 total visits, according to Alberta Health Services. That month, Safeworks staff responded to 37 overdoses, bringing the total to 1,092 since October 2017.Average visits per day have risen from 114 in April 2018 to 176 two months ago.Compared to the three-year average, newly released crime stats in the zone surrounding the Chumir from April to June show:An increase of 21 drug-related calls to police; One more reported incident of violence (most violent incidents involved weapon assaults against Chumir staff and those outside the facility); Four fewer break and enter incidents; Seven more incidents of vehicle-related crime. Related
But Beltline Neighbourhoods Association president Peter Oliver said the report also highlights increased crime as an issue plaguing the city centre in general. Vehicle crime was up 85 per cent over the three-year average during the second quarter of 2019 while break and enters were up 52 per cent in the inner city.“I think you will generally hear people speak more positively about where we are with things,” Oliver said of the situation near the Chumir. “But we don’t think that it’s time for anyone to pack up and go home and call it a job done either.”Oliver noted people have been more “vigilant” in reporting issues.“I think people are just more alert now and being more responsive with police,” he said.
Drug paraphernalia is seen in a parking space along 4th St. and 15th Ave. SW near the Sheldon Chumir Health Centres safe injection site.
Brendan Miller /
“We’re starting to see some progress, but we need to have continued focus in this area and support from the provincial government to open more supervised consumption sites and to continue to support harm reduction, as well as all the other different means of recovery.”In June, the UCP government halted funding for another would-be safe consumption site, a mobile version to be stationed in Forest Lawn, amid a province-wide “socioeconomic” review of all proposed sites.That review is not yet underway. A spokesperson for Associate Minister for Mental Health and Addiction Jason Luan said Friday that details are being finalized and would be announced “shortly.”Neufeld said he remained concerned about increased use of the safe consumption site at the Chumir, but was “cautiously optimistic.”“Of course we want them to use it, but again, as the numbers rise, so does the demand on the police and it makes it very difficult to sustain that level of policing in that area without some longer term solutions,” he firstname.lastname@example.orgOn Twitter: @SammyHudes