On May 24, Edmonton Police Service (EPS) started a new policing initiative in the Alberta Avenue, downtown, and Chinatown areas called Project Connection.
“Our goal [with the project] is to decrease victimization, increase prosocial behaviour of everyone in the community, and then increase the community members’ perceptions of safety,” says Insp. Angela Kemp, who is leading the project.
The first phase of the project will involve a more saturated and visible police presence within the areas to combat the increase in crime that has emerged during the pandemic. According to data from Statistics Canada, Edmonton experienced an uptick in crimes including assaults, sexual assaults, robbery, and breaking and entering since December 2020. In most cases, those crimes are more frequent in March 2022 than they were in December 2020.
“We [built] Project Connection in order to address some of these [pandemic crime] concerns from a community perspective, from a policing perspective, and also [because we’re] trying to meet the needs of some vulnerable community members as well… in order to make these communities safer than what people feel they are now,” says Kemp.
As the name of the project suggests, a major goal of Project Connection is to create strong connections between EPS and the community.
“We want to make sure that we’re connecting not only the community policing aspects of crime prevention and crime reduction to communities, but also connecting those community members who might need extra supports to social agencies that [they] need,” adds Kemp.
The first phase will also prioritize community input. Police officers will connect with local business owners, community members, and vulnerable individuals to understand their perspectives.
“We know all the calls that come in, we know the intel and the data that is reported, but sometimes people, [especially when they live in the neighbourhood], might have a different perspective,” says Kemp. “We want to hear everyone’s different perspectives to understand what they fear the problem is in their community.”
Phase two of the project will begin in July, and it will continue with the high visibility police presence from phase one. Police will tackle problems that have been identified by themselves and by the community, and partner with organizations or agencies that are best suited to fix the issues. “Sometimes police isn’t… always the answer,” says Kemp, “but what police do is connect people to the right places.”
For example, Kemp says that EPS teams work closely with Edmonton Fire Rescue Services and their property teams in Alberta Avenue to address problem properties.
Police also partner with health teams and outreach teams to connect vulnerable individuals to supports.
“We really try to meet [people] where they’re at,” says Kemp. “We want to make sure that the best people to help them are brought into the solution.”
Phase three of the project involves building multidisciplinary community safety teams. These teams will include representatives from Alberta Health Services (AHS), Edmonton Fire Rescue Services, peace officers, and EPS to better understand and address problems in the community.
“We get all these people in, working together to actually solve the multifaceted issues in certain geographic areas,” says Kemp.
During the three phases of this project, the goal is to reduce the number of calls that residents make to police about crime and disturbances in the area. Kemp says that residents should still report everything, but EPS hopes to see a reduction in how many of those calls have to be made. Surveys and qualitative data gathering will also be a part of this project in order to listen to residents and focus on their needs and lived experiences.
Kemp says EPS’s priority is having a positive impact on the community, and this data will help them achieve this.
The hope is to build connections between the police and the community, and she encourages community members to say hi to police officers in the area. “We really want to know what the concerns are from an individual level, so we can create these more positive experiences for everyone and make people feel safe.”