Edmonton Police Service (EPS) doubled its presence around 118 Avenue with the addition of six constables and a second sergeant to the beat in June.

Led by Sgt. Ashley Hayward, the extra officers will provide greater day and night coverage to Alberta Avenue and parts of Westwood, Spruce Avenue, Parkdale, Eastwood, and Elmwood Park.

“Our overall productivity as a beats unit has more than doubled by including double the amount of beats members,” Hayward said. “Generally, we’ve got four to five [members] out there everyday. They will be the guys that you see riding up and down with mountain bikes, and in the alleys walking around.”

After managing a patrol response team for 18 months, Hayward was drawn to the beats unit for its unique combination of proactive, high-visibility policing, and reactive investigative work.

“As a patrol officer you don’t get to engage with the public in general. You’re responding to people in times of crisis, when stress is high—when tempers are high.” He explained that on a beat, “You can walk down the avenue and just pass the time of day with people. It’s nothing complicated—just traditional policing, being out here on the street.”

The expansion of the beats unit is a welcome addition to the community, said Gérard Forget, chair of Alberta Avenue district council.

“We were low in policing on 118 Ave to begin with. I think any addition is good,” Forget said. “The presence is more important than anything else. When you have nobody around, where do you think the crime goes? When the cat’s away, the mice play.”

The extra constables also means more officers are available to respond to inquiries from community members.

Earlier this year, EPS launched an email address to allow residents, stakeholders, and businesses in the area to contact the beat team directly.

Since then, a number of local apartment building managers have used the point of contact to grant police agent status on their properties. The agent status program allows EPS members to ban and charge trespassers from participating buildings on behalf of property owners.

Despite this progress, Hayward sees room for improvement, hearing calls from the community to deal with other problems, including graffiti, prostitution, and traffic violations.

“We can put 30 members out there, and there would be work for 30 people,” Hayward said. “Everybody will come up with a different opinion on what’s important to them right now. It’s a question of trying to manage what we statistically think is most important, and how we can best serve the community where we are in terms of the resources we have.”

Email the Alberta Avenue beats team at nwbeats@edmontonpolice.ca.

EPS members are also available for questions and comments on the first Tuesday of every month from 10:30 a.m. to noon at The Carrot Coffeehouse on 118 Ave. and 94 St.

Featured Image: From left, Constables Daniel Behiels, Owen Staudinger, Chris LeBlanc, and Mike Kelly join Sgt. Ashley Hayward (centre) as the latest addition to Alberta Avenue’s beat team. | Hamdi Issawi