April 23rd, 2024

Chief promises higher police presence in downtown core after public survey

By Brendan Miller on February 23, 2024.

Twenty-nine per cent of respondents to a public survey say they feel uncomfortable downtown, up from 19 per cent in 2017. A police cruiser is seen on Second Street SE in this 2023 file photo.--NEWS FILE PHOTO


Hatters are seemingly happy with police effort in Medicine Hat but growing concerns about downtown are in need of immediate attention, the city’s police chief says.

Members of the Police Commission this week heard the results of Medicine Hat Police Service public survey conducted last fall evaluating citizens’ levels of satisfaction with performance of the police service. This is the fifth survey completed by request of the commission on citizen satisfaction of the police service.

The survey, conducted by Framework Analytics, collects data gathered by interviewing 400 random Medicine Hat households and rates satisfaction levels among a variety of police services, such as traffic control, criminal investigations, general duties and policing as a whole.

During the report, the commission learned that general satisfaction among Canadians with police services has dropped by five per cent across the country. The local survey however, suggests the performance of the Medicine Hat Police Service is improving over time, earning an overall rating of 71 per cent, which is a 6 per cent increase over a survey completed in 2011.

Nine per cent of respondents said they were dissatisfied with MHPS.

The survey found 77 per cent of residents feel safe living in Medicine Hat, however the number who feel uncomfortable going downtown is on the rise.

This year 29 per cent of respondents said they feel uncomfortable downtown, up from 19 per cent in 2017.

“So, people are afraid of, or uncomfortable going into the downtown area, and that actually almost increased by a factor of two,” Alec Milne, principal at Framework Analytics, told the commission.

Chief Alan Murphy told the News the service plans to take citizen concerns over downtown to heart and says MHPS is developing a plan to increase its downtown presence this spring. He says they want to increase service to the vulnerable population downtown suffering from mental health issues and addictions.

“It involves working with all of our partners together,” says Murphy. “So it’s not shouldered by just one group.

“I think the fact that we’re going to get out there earlier and work towards it as a group, it will make a big difference. We share the concerns that our population of citizens share around downtown – we share it, too – and we’re working towards it.”

The survey found 85 per cent of respondents are satisfied with the overall professionalism of the service.

Overall satisfaction with the MHPS’s communication with the community was rated at 70 per cent, up from 57 per cent in 2014.

“I liked that we did a survey,” says Murphy. “Because then you actually get a bit of a barometer of how you’re doing.

“But if we do nothing about it, shame on us. But we are going to do something about it and the issues around are the unhoused, mental health and addictions, people suffer with those issues. that’s what we’ve got to get to.”

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