Winter is a chilly time to be intoxicated in public, with the city and season bringing unique dangers.

Const. Cam Buffalo, a member of one of Edmonton Police Service’s northwest division’s beat teams, said people who are intoxicated outdoors could catch hypothermia.

“Alcohol thins out your blood, so you think you’re warmer than you are,” said Buffalo.

The sun sets sooner, and if someone is wearing dark-coloured clothing, drivers may not see them. Telltale signs of intoxication include someone who can barely stand, who is carrying alcohol, or who is stumbling into traffic.

At this point, call the 24/7 Crisis Diversion Team, the police, or 911.

REACH Edmonton Council for Safe Communities runs the 24/7 Crisis Diversion Team, a partnership between several local resources. The team provides crisis intervention services for people who are publicly intoxicated, for people with a non-emergency crisis, or if there is a possible safety concern.

“We’re not a frontline,” said Lindsay Daniller, REACH’s director of community initiatives and strategic development. “The idea is to call 211 if you see someone in distress.”

With five Crisis Diversion teams on the streets, they’re kept busy. Daniller said the team was expecting to respond to 9,000 calls for service this year, but have responded to over 11,000 crisis events. The teams have responded to over 2,000 events in October and November this year alone. They often see the same people.

The crisis team helps address non-emergency issues, freeing up time for police.

“Police can then attend to real crimes and what needs real police resources,” said Daniller. “We’ve linked the crisis team with police around their protocols.”

The team generally takes intoxicated individuals to shelters (like Hope Mission or the George Spady Society) to sober up and access workers, who can connect them to programs or other resources.

“Sometimes we’ll take people to hospitals if there’s real distress,” said Daniller.

Buffalo added, “If they’re banned from both, we’ll watch them until they’re sober.”

If you see someone you think is publicly intoxicated or in distress, call 211. “Distress could mean someone’s outside, not sufficiently dressed, or upset. They might have mental health issues or be publicly intoxicated.”

When you call 211, prepare to answer some questions, then press three and speak with an operator, who may have more questions.

The crisis team is a great resource, but police are also available. Buffalo said to call the police if there’s anything they should know about. He explained 211 can’t always respond to the situation immediately.

While it may be tempting to help an intoxicated individual, remember not to put yourself in any danger.

“If you’re comfortable intervening, get that person out of traffic,” said Buffalo, giving an example. “For the most part, leave it to us.”

The fine for public intoxication is $115. “We tend to save those for extra-belligerent drunks,” said Buffalo.

And of course, if there’s an emergency, call 911.


Call 211, then press 3

Report the incident by calling the EPS non-emergency line: