Initiative to create a safer area for shoppers and residents

A new initiative between Alberta Avenue Business Association (AABA) and Alberta Ave’s EPS beat teams is hoping to make Avenue businesses and the area an even safer and more positive place in which to shop and live.

Businesses Together is a six-month pilot between (AABA), We Believe in 118, and Edmonton Police Service that started on June 1. 

Joachim Holtz, executive director of AABA, explains how it all started. “Back in January, I was approached by our two beat sergeants, Sgt. Andy Hayward and Sgt. Andrew Weaver, who wanted to run an idea by me.”

Both sergeants hail from England and there as police officers had created a plan for community members. They thought they could adapt the same plan to work for businesses here. 

Essentially, the pilot focuses on businesses working and communicating with one another by using crime prevention principles and technology to reduce crime and to ensure people that businesses and the area are safe. Holtz adds, “[The pilot] will provide strategies and tools to prevent crimes and [related] activities.”

Using a set of simple rules for businesses to follow, the pilot aims to weed out the destructive behaviour of some patrons and draw more shoppers to the area. Holtz describes it as a “self-sustaining watch” and he hopes business owners get to know one another better as a result.

Some rules include no soliciting, providing washrooms for paying customers only, zero tolerance for banned patrons, and banning sales of weapons or drugs. 

“There’s been lots of progress on Alberta Avenue over the past 12 years. This is just a continuation of that progress. It’s all about safety,” says Holtz. “I think it’s a really good idea. Businesses can talk and communicate. Everyone working together, joining together.”

The police beat teams have already signed up 160 businesses for the pilot. It’s not mandatory for businesses to participate, but Holtz emphasizes that the pilot is a positive and hopeful development and that AABA has always had a positive relationship with police.

Another aspect of the pilot is the addition of 10 AABA televisions installed in select businesses to showcase participating businesses, events, and Crime Stoppers appeals. Participating businesses can advertise for free using this television.

“Every few seconds, there’ll be an advertisement. In between the advertising slides, there will be an image of someone the police are looking for and people that cause a disturbance.” Holtz adds that people who cause disturbances are “a nuisance”. It’s petty, it creates a bad impression. All that we ask is that people show respect. It’s all on a positive note.”

Police can ban patrons from stores if there is an allegation of crime or disorder. When someone is banned, the hope is that it will help with that person’s rehabilitation. The ban lasts for 90 days and that person is banned across all participating stores in the pilot program. Additionally, the stores will have contact numbers to call for useful resources when dealing with public disorder in their stores.

After the pilot is over, there will be a debriefing by EPS.

As well, participating businesses in the pilot have access to an online chat forum designed to connect them with each other to share ideas, ask for advice, or exchange information.

“Obviously, we’ll try to get some type of measurement,” says Holtz. He also mentioned that businesses can meet the police at quarterly Businesses Together mixers (a business version of Coffee with the Cops).

Holtz is positive about the pilot. 

“I think that this is a great idea, because at the end of the day, if you’re not proactive, what have you got? The whole thing is work together, communicate together, and keep each other informed.”

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Featured Image: Beat police, Joachim Holtz (executive director of AABA), and Christy Morin (executive director of Arts on the Ave). | Supplied