Neigh­bours call drug-use site a failed ‘ex­per­i­ment’

PressReader - BRUCE_CAROL_ROWE Channel - Neigh­bours call drug-use site a failed ‘ex­per­i­ment’
Res­i­dents, busi­ness own­ers and com­mu­nity ad­vo­cates are call­ing for the province to push the re­set but­ton on the city’s only su­per­vised drug con­sump­tion site.But the pres­i­dent of Cal­gary’s po­lice union says tack­ling a re­cent spike in crime and dis­or­der around the site comes down to bet­ter man­age­ment of po­lice resources.The ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Vic­to­ria Park Busi­ness Im­prove­ment Area, David Low, said the con­cerns of Belt­line res­i­dents about the Safeworks Harm Re­duc­tion Pro­gram were val­i­dated by a po­lice re­port on Tues­day show­ing a 276-per-cent in­crease in drug-re­lated calls last year com­pared with the three-year av­er­age.Low called the site a failed “ex­per­i­ment” at harm re­duc­tion, say­ing the province should be fo­cused on “pri­mary preven­tion” through men­tal health and ad­dic­tion sup­ports rather than the cri­sis man­age­ment.He likened the safe con­sump­tion site to pulling a drown­ing per­son out of a river and just leav­ing them on the bank. “We need to start go­ing up river and stop­ping this ... I think the con­ver­sa­tion around stop­ping peo­ple from fall­ing in has not had enough vol­ume around it,” Low said.Health Canada an­nounced Thurs­day it has ap­proved, with con­di­tions, a re­newed ex­emp­tion un­der the Con­trolled Drugs and Sub­stances Act for the su­per­vised con­sump­tion site at the Shel­don M. Chu­mir Health Cen­tre.The ex­emp­tion in­cludes con­di­tions to ad­dress is­sues iden­ti­fied in the po­lice re­port on crime and dis­or­der near the fa­cil­ity, such as nee­dle de­bris, pub­lic dis­or­der and neigh­bour­hood safety is­sues.The re­newal is for one year and the ex­emp­tion will be re­viewed in four months, Health Canada said.“The Depart­ment will con­tinue to mon­i­tor this site and its ad­her­ence to the es­tab­lished con­di­tions,” a news re­lease said.An open let­ter from com­mu­nity mem­bers had called for Health Canada to re­voke and sus­pend the site’s ex­emp­tion.While Low said the busi­ness group hasn’t for­mally adopted that po­si­tion, he said peo­ple in the Belt­line feel like col­lat­eral dam­age of the city’s drug cri­sis.“Ev­ery­one (in the com­mu­nity) is ex­tremely sup­port­ive of, in prin­ci­ple, su­per­vised con­sump­tion and harm re­duc­tion. But the un­in­tended con­se­quences of this ... made peo­ple feel like they are ac­cept­able ca­su­al­ties,” he said.The re­port re­leased Tues­day shows drug crimes in the rest of the city are de­clin­ing while a 250-me­tre zone near the Safeworks site has be­come ground zero for drug deal­ers flock­ing to the Belt­line.Les Kamin­ski, pres­i­dent of the Cal­gary Po­lice As­so­ci­a­tion, called the spike in crime around Safeworks an in­evitabil­ity.And de­spite an in­crease in po­lice pa­trols and covert mon­i­tor­ing of the site, Kamin­ski said cut­ting back on crime comes down to re­source man­age­ment.“What I can tell you is it’s com­mon sense think­ing to say that when you have a crime is­sue, you put resources to ad­dress that crime is­sue,” Kamin­ski said. “Make a plan, ad­dress is­sue. It’s that sim­ple.”With the city’s only down­town po­lice sta­tion clos­ing just weeks af­ter the Safeworks site opened, Kamin­ski said more of­fi­cers are needed to keep the peace down­town.

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