League board member is spearheading the safety program

Steve Larson’s world revolves around safety and security. After 20 years in related industries, last year he jumped in with both feet as a board member of Elmwood Park Community League. His goal? An Elmwood Park safety program with official Edmonton Neighbourhood Watch membership.

Having lived in Elmwood Park for 12 years, Larson was only too aware of crime statistics.

“Basically, most of my neighbours have had some trouble. They were broken into. License plates were taken. Our alleys are frequented by some interesting characters,” he says. “Everybody had an issue.”

A chance activity opened Larson’s eyes to the existence of Elmwood Park Community League. A friend asked Larson if he could borrow his truck during last year’s Big Bin event. “Elmwood Park Community League was involved,” recalls Larson. He got a league membership on the spot.

“I had thought something like a community league was needed for local safety and knowledge, but I didn’t know one already existed,” he says.

One of his first goals was to connect with Edmonton Neighbourhood Watch (ENW). Established in 1978, ENW works with local communities to make them safer. Larson discovered ENW’s educational and crime prevention programs and knew they would fit well with the league’s own ideas on how to connect neighbours and promote safety awareness.

As ENW says on their website enwatch.ca, residents who actively participate in their neighbourhood and know their neighbours are more likely to look out for each other.

All was going well with Elmwood Park’s new safety program. Then COVID-19 hit. Larson shakes his head. “Nothing that I wanted to do around community safety was allowed. I couldn’t even walk the neighbourhood to knock on doors or talk to people.”

He did take time out of a busy work schedule to train online with ENW. “I have a package of crime prevention information waiting for me. Our Community League Day on Sept. 19 will have this stuff available at Elmwood Park. It’s a start.”

Walk Your Block is one of ENW’s programs that Larson wants to promote. The goal is to take a walk in your neighbourhood whenever you like in order to prevent crime before it happens. Says Larson, “It’s the least we can do at this point, and [it’s] something that can be done with social distancing. People are more receptive now to walking together in the neighbourhood.”

Other ideas percolating for Elmwood Park in 2021 include a block party promoting safety and security. In the meantime, articles like this one, sharing safety literature, and walking in the community will all help spread the word.

“With COVID-19 restrictions, we have to work around the rules and fears. There are things that can be done, and areas that are opening up for action,” says Larson with conviction.Steve Larson can be reached by email at epcl.community.safety@shaw.ca.

Featured Image: Edmonton Neighbourhood Watch program director Hazel Mbabazi joined Steve Larson (right) at Elmwood Park Community League Day to share community safety tips. Edmonton police also supported the effort. | Constance Brissenden