Residents rethink mobile safe-consumption site
Fearing a meth-fuelled crime wave mirroring the strife that’s descended on the area around Calgary’s only supervised drug-consumption site, community leaders in Forest Lawn are withdrawing their support for a mobile version of the controversial service.Last week, Calgary police released year-end crime statistics for the area immediately surrounding the Safeworks Harm Reduction Program, located inside the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre. The report outlined a massive spike in drug offences, vehicle crimes, violence and social disorder calls in the zone.The vehicle, which is equipped with two supervised consumption booths and space to monitor users, had primarily been aimed at reducing the deadly toll of opioids. However, many users are now choosing methamphetamines, which police blame for a spike in unpredictable and often dangerous criminal activity throughout the city.William Carnegie, president of the Forest Lawn Community Association, said residents of the east Calgary community have worked closely with HIV Community Link, which is in the process of finalizing approvals to operate the vehicle. But, the revelations about the rise in social disorder at the Safeworks site has forced them to rethink giving their blessing to the plan.“Our community is not interested, frankly, in having a safe consumption site,” he said. “We’re relatively supportive of the idea, but we don’t see any reason to be putting the community through that sort of risk without some reassurances of safety.“It does seem like meth is playing more of a role at these sites … and if it’s going to be meth, it changes the security and safety of the area.”Police data from 2018 showed the 250-metre zone near the Chumir saw a 29-per-cent increase in calls for service compared to the three-year average.Carnegie said his association fears Forest Lawn could see a similar crime bump if it hosts the mobile service.Leslie Hill, executive director of HIV Community Link, wasn’t available for comment Monday, but last week told Postmedia the Calgary Coalition on Supervised Consumption, which she cochairs, is still narrowing down its final locations before completing its application to Health Canada.The group is aiming to set up at locations on Calgary’s east side and in the east end of downtown, which have been identified as hot spots for sometimes deadly overdoses.“We went to the community for context and to understand what they’d like us to take into consideration in the planning of our services, and any support that they have for the service and any opposition, and how we can mitigate people’s concerns,” Hill previously said.She added the vehicle will include staff members who will work with the behaviour of clients, while monitoring needle debris and acting as a community liaison.In a public post to community members last week, Carnegie addressed concerns about the site, but he acknowledged the community has no real way of forcing the group away from Forest Lawn.“I don’t see any way we can prevent it from happening,” he said. East Calgary Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said he will aim to delay the project if the proper safeguards for communities aren’t in place first.“I think we’re going to continue to try and thread the needle and try to strike the right balance here and if the supervised consumption site cannot meet what the police are asking for, I’m going to do everything I can to delay their opening until they do,” he told Postmedia last week.We’re relatively supportive of the idea, but we don’t see any reason to be putting the community through that sort of risk.
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