Pubdate: Tue, 08 Mar 2005
Source: Fort McMurray Today (CN AB)
Copyright: 2005 Fort McMurray Today
Author: Patrick Morley, Today staff


Lights. Cameras. Action. Drugs.

All four issues blazed into focus last night at the Travelodge as 28
frustrated members of the Fort McMurray Downtown Business
Revitalization Zone (BRZ) and the RCMP grappled with solutions to end
crime and drug abuse in the downtown core.

With an substantial improvement to the downtown core's lighting, which
includes three new streetlights on the Provincial Building and two at
the bus stop on Main Street, members of the BRZ floated the idea of
installing security cameras to deter crime.

"If we put obvious cameras in problem places it would probably work to
deter crime," said Campbell Music's Mike Allen.

"There are legal issues with that too, like privacy and if children
are around. If we find that cameras would work, then there's a cost
with that. And we might be displacing the crime to another area."

Cameras are used to watch over Edmonton's Whyte Avenue and have been
met with varying success rates. Although police surveys, done while
the cameras were installed after the 2001 Canada Day riots, showed
most Edmontonians agreed the cameras were a good idea, they were of no
use to investigators in an August 2003 nightclub stabbing.

At the time Alberta's information and privacy commissioner Frank Work
said capital city cops did have the authority under provincial privacy
law to collect personal information via surveillance cameras for law
enforcement purposes.

Outside-the-box thinking and passionate opinions about drug abuse and
dealing -- especially the Liberal government's proposal to
decriminalize marijuana -- dominated the rest of evening. Business
owners had the chance to bounce their ideas off of local RCMP Insp.
Peter Clark.

Some people in the crowd spoke of drug dealers wandering around hotel
hallways looking for clients, while others shared stories of junkies
on the street with elastic bands tied around their bloody arms walking
on a pile of used syringes.

The complexity of drug abuse and its severe societal implications led
Clark to explain to the crowd how the problem might be approached.
"Drugs are a very complex issue that needs a complex answer but there
are things we can do in the short term," he explained. The Mountie
spoke with emotion after acknowledging his concern about drugs in the
wake of the deadly shoot-out last Thursday near Mayerthorpe.

"Front-line responses (are good), and I hear accolades on that end,
but it could still be better. The question is not more police because
that is not going to happen. Forces are stretched right across the
country. The issue is what are the police officers doing? Is their
time being used properly and are they in the right spots?"

BRZ executive director Pauline Phibbs said a representative from the
local Alberta Alcohol and Drug Commission office was invited, but did
not attend the presentation.
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