May 24th, 2024

Mid-sized city mayors to talk common social concerns in Lethbridge

By Southern Alberta Newspapers on May 1, 2024.



The mayors of Alberta’s mid-sized cities will discuss common challenges with crime, homelessness and other matters on Thursday in Lethbridge.

The private session comes one day before the unrelated Alberta Association of Police Governance conference, but is a municipal effort to address issues, says organizer Coun. John Middleton-Hope of the Lethbridge Police Service.

“This is a municipal government initiative to try to get support on best practices, to try to get support on how do we move these initiatives forward,” he added.

“These are opportunities for other municipalities to learn from what we have done, and we want to learn equally from them what they have done, what works, what doesn’t work, so we don’t go down rabbit holes.”

He says it’s important for municipalities to advocate as a collective to various provincial ministries for assistance.

Curtis Zablocki, Assistant Deputy Minister for the public security division of the Ministry of Public Safety and Emergency Services, will be attending the workshop. Zablocki retired last year from his position as deputy commissioner of the RCMP in Alberta.

British Columbia has 30 communities working together on a similar type of approach, he says, adding the Alberta ministry wants municipalities to work together on projects that address crime and disorder issues.

“There is support from the government to do this, there is support from the municipalities,” Zablocki added.

Invited municipalities have more than 50,000 residents. They include Medicine Hat, Grand Prairie, Wood Buffalo, Spruce Grove, Sherwood Park, Airdrie and Red Deer. The total population of these communities is about 700,000.

In Alberta, 26 municipalities are constituted as mid-sized cities with populations between 15,000 and 110,000.

Lethbridge’s “Downtown Lawlessness Reduction Task Force” will present a summary of that city’s encampment strategy, implemented last summer.

“Every municipality across the province, whether they’re small, mid-sized or large are experiencing to some degree a form of addictions problems, homelessness problems, crime problems in their downtown core,” he said.

A concern is how provincial efforts in Calgary and Edmonton may create knock-on effects in regional communities.

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