Pubdate: Sat, 09 Apr 2016
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2016 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Otiena Ellwand
Page: 5


If Crime Is Reduced and Drug Users Get Help, 'I'm All for It,' Knecht Says

If a safe injection site for IV drug users reduces crime and helps 
people get to a better place in their lives, Edmonton police Chief 
Rod Knecht says he would throw his full weight behind it.

But for now, he's not voicing an opinion on whether one should open or not.

"I'm obviously not a physician, I'm not a nurse, I'm not a social 
worker," Knecht said Friday. "I think if the public's view is that 
safe injection sites are a good thing, I guess we'll respect that, 
but we have some concerns."

One of those is an increase in the number of used and discarded 
needles found around the city, as well as crime problems rising 
around injection sites.

Edmonton's needle exchange program handed out 1.4 million needles in 
its last fiscal year and is on track to distribute 1.6 million this 
year. For months now, a group called Access to Medically Supervised 
Injection Services Edmonton has been meeting to figure out just how a 
safe site here might work.

Knecht has done some reading about Vancouver's model, where two 
medically supervised injection sites exist, and he said the 
scientific evidence that the sites help drug users is promising.

"If it drives down crime, if it drives down infection, if it provides 
these folks with an opportunity to get help, to get into a program, 
I'm all for it. I think it's some of the residual issues that folks 
are concerned about," Knecht said.

This was just one of many topics the chief addressed during his 
biannual "coffee with the chief" session with reporters Friday. Here 
are some other highlights:

Homicides: There have been 12 homicides this year, with the last six 
occurring in as many days. So far, only one person has been charged, 
but Knecht said detectives have identified suspects in the majority 
of the cases.

"I've looked at all of those homicides - who was the victim, who was 
the potential perpetrator and the circumstances around it - and 
there's no clear pattern," he said.

One thing did catch his attention: of the 12 homicides this year, 
seven involved a gun. And of the six latest victims, Knecht said all 
were living a "high-risk lifestyle."

But none of that has any effect on the priority of the investigation, he said.

"They all have mums and dads and family members that care for them 
very deeply, and they are the victims left behind. They want to know, 
is somebody going to be arrested? ... The answer is absolutely yes," 
Knecht said.

Nevertheless, Knecht wanted to reassure citizens, and said it twice 
for good measure: "You're very safe here in Edmonton."

Radicalization: "Alberta is a very busy jurisdiction for 
counterterrorism and radicalization issues and Edmonton in 
particular. We do have a lot of active investigations," Knecht said.

He wouldn't go into any detail about those investigations or how many 
are ongoing, but said the number continues to rise.

One concern is how terrorist networks and individuals tend to use 
social media to target youth, he said.

Crime numbers: Violent crime statistics have increased "dramatically" 
in the last three years, but they're finally starting to level off. 
Violent crime - encompassing assaults, domestic violence, homicides, 
robbery and sexual assaults - is down by nearly two per cent from 
this time last year.

Property crime has increased from last year by about 21 per cent, 
something that could be linked to the flailing economy and warm 
weather, he said. Break-and-enters are up 21 per cent, theft from 
vehicles is up 30 per cent and theft of vehicles is up nearly five per cent.

Calls for service increased by only three per cent, which the chief 
saw as an improvement. They've ballooned over the years from eight to 
12 per cent, he said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom