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Business owner says reopening shuttered police station won't reduce crime downtown

Last Updated Sep 25, 2019 at 7:56 am MDT

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — Two Calgary city councillors are pushing to reopen a shuttered police station in the downtown core.

Ward 11 Coun. Jeromy Farkas and Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell are asking council to review the Victoria Park police station closure at the Sept. 30 council meeting.

Eventually, their hope is that it will be considered during the upcoming budget deliberations to reinstate the station in response to growing crime in and around the Safeworks supervised consumption site.

However, the leader of a community group in the downtown core argues it doesn’t make sense operationally or practically to bring back the Victoria Park station.

“In terms of deployment times, if you’re putting on your uniform there or in Ramsay, [there is] not a lot of difference in terms of that actual presence factor,” said David Low, executive director of the Victoria Park Business Improvement Area.

BIAs play a role in area revitalization, and work with their communities on public safety and crime prevention efforts.

Officers stopped working out of the building in the Victoria Park area in 2017 and now they’re based out of District 1 in Ramsay.

It’s been sitting empty since police moved out, and Low says they’d rather see an officer on the streets than in the building.

“It allows for more officers to be on the ground is the crux of it,” he said.

There were a number of reasons that led to the closure of the Victoria Park station such as the fact that the building is unable to hold prisoners and that it’s physical constraints made them ill-equipped to protect staff and officers from rampant vandalism.

“It’s nice psychologically, but operationally and practically it doesn’t really make a lot of difference,” Low said.

In February, CPS ramped up their presence near the Sheldon M. Chumir Centre Safeworks consumption site, after reporting a spike in violence and break-ins in the surrounding area.

READ MORE: More officers being moved into District 1 to deal with supervised consumption site

Calgary police redistributed 11 officers including a sergeant and 10 constables from other districts to District 1 to address the crime.

A business owner in the area would rather see small policy changes from Safeworks, such as keeping needle usage within the centre to prevent the spread of debris.

“I generally try not to contact the police for disorder issues that we have because I feel that they are not the best resource to go to,” said Marie Chiem, owner of Leno Jewellery.

“I would prefer to approach the DOAP team or the Alpha House staff directly because to have a brick and mortar police station I know is very expensive, and while it may give me a sense of security, it wouldn’t be true security.”

Meanwhile, Farkas argues that having a permanent presence downtown will be positive for the community as a whole.

Calgary Police Service is currently reviewing where it places its officers across the city.

READ MORE: Crime continues to climb outside Sheldon Chumir: report