Res­i­dents re­think mo­bile safe-con­sump­tion site

PressReader - BRUCE_CAROL_ROWE Channel - 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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