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The challenge of policing First and George

RCMP Supt. Warren Brown

The best questions are often the simplest ones.

And, they often get the best responses.

Coun. Albert Koehler asked RCMP Supt. Warren Brown a simple question Monday night when the city’s top cop appeared before council.

“You mentioned the area of Third and George St. (as being a high crime area),” said Koehler. “In many discussions, certain organizations are in the crosshairs. We know there’s the Fire Pit, we know there’s the needle exchange and some people think something could be done. I don’t know what.

“What would be your recommendation the city could do to help with this issue?”

The response from Brown was likely the best he delivered of the night.

“I think the city’s demonstrated over the past year and previous years, through bylaws, that we have repatriated some locations in the community that have fallen victim to high crime rate and volume. That would be the Connaught, the Lombardy (trailer park), and old derelict buildings downtown. I think the city can continue support by ensuring that bylaws are adhered to, by ensuring that landlords are responsible to their tenants through applicable bylaws.

“The Third and George area is a challenge. Although we can recognize it’s a high-crime area, we have to balance traditional law enforcement … I could put police officers at every corner and hammer everyone for every infraction they do … but there’s also a need for folks to come to that location because services are offered. We have to be mindful and respectful of that.

“These are our most marginalized and vulnerable people in our community who suffer from addictions, mental health issues. We have to work and collaborate more efficiently with our stakeholders.

“However, having said that, we can’t tolerate crime. I cannot tolerate people dying from drug overdoses because that’s where drug traffickers can come to find their victims.

“I can’t tolerate vulnerable people who owe drug dealers money then get beat up because they can’t pay their drug debts, at that location.

“I can’t tolerate people getting their businesses broken and feeling unsafe in the area.

“That’s a fine line.

“There’ll be opportunity and I’ll continue to engage the city in areas where there’s some ownership.”

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