Building a Safer Calgary

By Calgary Leader Editorial Staff

September 2021 –  Safety is top of mind for voters. Between 2017 and 2019 the number of Calgarians who felt unsafe in the downtown core jumped from 18 per cent to 32 per cent, according to a survey from The City of Calgary and the University of Calgary.

The Calgary Police Service is our city’s line of defence in tackling crime and disruption. However, CPS is frequently called upon to respond to instances of non-violent mental health and addiction problems they’re not fully trained to handle. This creates strain on the officers and on the individual, and results in a continuing cycle of unnecessary arrests.

A BETTER POLICING MODEL

Many experts consider it best practice for police to identify a mental health crisis, and then send unarmed outreach workers and medics who are trained in crisis intervention
to respond.

This would require a training program to ensure that officers are able to recognize
and de-escalate a mental health crisis
when encountered.

The municipal election on Monday, October 18 offers voters a chance to voice their opinions on how police should handle these issues. 

Mayoral candidate Kent Hehr is championing a comprehensive plan for changes to CPS that will make Calgary safer.

SAFEST CITY FOR WOMEN

Hehr’s bold vision for community safety goes beyond policing. He aims to make Calgary the safest place in Canada for women and girls.

Building a safer city for women and girls

Gender-responsive urban planning is gaining traction globally. Vienna, widely considered the most liveable city in the world, was among the first to consider gender in urban planning. The city researched the differences in how genders use public spaces. It updated parks, footpaths, and other city properties to reflect this data.

Tactics a city can take for making all genders feel equally safe include: 

  • increasing lighting where people walk and wait outdoors;
  • increased efforts to make transit available and safe; and
  • increased efficiency in housing women and girls escaping abuse.

RECENT EVENTS IMPACT SAFETY

Recent events such as economic decline and the pandemic have increased the danger for Calgary women, both at home and in the community. 

As vacancy rates increase, so do areas where women have to walk alone.

Police have also seen some increase in domestic dispute calls during the pandemic. Economic struggles, and lack of opportunities for families to spend time apart, can result in an increase in violence towards women.

One gender responsive planning tactic especially pertinent in Calgary is helping foot traffic in areas of increased vacancy, and improving the safety of shortcuts and alleyways by adding mirrors, cameras, and lighting.