A new center on the eastern edge of downtown Calgary aims to allay growing safety concerns for area residents, workers and visitors.
The East Village Safety Hub will open in the basement of the St. Louis Hotel, located at 430 8th Ave. SE, on August 10. The space will serve as an outpost for city police officers as they patrol the core, with the goal of increasing the presence of uniformed officers in the neighborhood.
The site is steps away from the Calgary Central Library, a major hub of activity for locals and tourists alike. It’s also in the midst of a hotbed of crime and disorder in the East Village, a part of town that has seen significant revitalization in recent years but remains at the center of public safety discussions.
“People are seeing things as they roam our streets and our parks. People are seeing vibrancy, businesses coming back, people coming back,” Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong said at a press conference on Thursday.
“But they are also seeing places where they don’t feel as comfortable as they used to. Some people feel a bit threatened. The truth is that this situation worries us.”
Statistics from the Calgary Police Service show that violent crime in core Calgary was up eight percent compared to the five-year average in the first quarter of 2022. Those statistics cover the East Village as well as the wider areas. from downtown and Beltline.
That increase in crime is largely due to common attacks. Police calls for riots also exceeded the five-year average both citywide and downtown in early 2022, with higher-than-average call volumes for unwelcome guests, riots, and mental health issues.
The security center in the East Village is an expansion of a pilot program that began last year with the opening of a similar space on Stephen Avenue near 2nd Street SW CPS Deputy Director Chad Tawfik said police believe a greater Police’s physical presence on downtown streets will make communities safer, and successes with the existing security downtown were bragged about.
“We have seen in the last year the opportunities that Stephen Avenue Safety Hub has provided to bring different agencies together to collaborate on safety issues, examples are traffic safety, downtown safety, protests and rallies,” he said. Tawfik.
“We are excited to see this program continue to expand to other downtown communities that really need support.”
The security centers are not police stations, Tawfik said, meaning they are not places for the public to report incidents. He described them as “collaborative” spaces where police can meet with community partners. That includes Alpha House, a nearby nonprofit that serves Calgarians experiencing addiction and homelessness.
He said it also serves as a base of operations for police officers from District 1, whose main office is located in Ramsay, a short distance south of the core. Police hope it’s a boon to downtown, which hasn’t had a station since the CPS location in Victoria Park closed in 2017.
“The fact that our members are here instead of having to go back to the Ramsay station or somewhere else keeps them here,” Tawfik said. “Being right in the heart of the situation helps response times.”
The Alpha House Downtown Outreach Addiction Partnership Program (DOAP Team), which responds to substance abuse calls in the downtown area, will also make use of the space.
“I think it’s really about improving our ability to respond to these really complex social issues that we see in our community,” said Alpha House Executive Director Kathy Christiansen.
The three-year East Village pilot center is funded by the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation and the City of Calgary.
CMLC President and CEO Kate Thompson said she hopes the centralized space can make people feel more comfortable on the eastern edge of downtown Calgary.
“I am delighted that as we are in this rapidly evolving community, safety has become a top priority,” said Thompson.