A 12-week pilot partnership between the Alberta Sheriffs and the Calgary Police Service (CPS) will begin in late February to help deter and respond to crime and social disorder.
The addition of 12 Alberta Sheriffs will allow existing CPS beat and bike teams to increase their visible presence in the inner-city neighbourhoods where they operate, as well as provide officers with more opportunities to respond to community concerns, helping keep communities safe while treating mental health and addiction as health-care issues.
“People in Calgary deserve to feel safe in their homes and in the places where they work and visit. This initiative increases public safety by putting more eyes and ears in neighbourhoods where they’re needed and creates a more visible officer presence that will help deter crime while connecting vulnerable Albertans to the supports they need. As the Calgary task force continues its work to make Calgary safer, it will be vital to continue to explore partnerships and collaborations as a way of addressing complex – and related – issues like crime, homelessness, addiction and mental health.”
“Police services across the province are important partners in implementing recovery-oriented systems of care. With the ongoing roll out of the HealthIM digital tool, and with the Calgary Police Service and Alberta Sheriffs working together to support vulnerable Calgarians, we can continue to treat mental health and addiction as health-care issues while keeping our communities safe.”
The 12 sheriffs assigned to work with the CPS beat teams will be deployed in the downtown core. CPS will use data to identify crime and social disorder hotspots where teams will focus their patrols.
“Our downtown beats and bikes teams are looking forward to being joined by our partners at Alberta Sheriffs to increase the visible policing presence within the downtown area. While we work with our partners in the social sector to address the needs of unhoused Calgarians, we also want to ensure our downtown is a welcoming place for all and that people feel safe and supported while travelling in and around our city.”
While officers will respond to criminal activity when needed, the goal of the CPS beat and bike teams is to increase community safety by preventing crime and using alternatives to enforcement when possible. This could mean proactively engaging with people in a neighbourhood to identify safety concerns or referring people in crisis to a community agency that could help them.
“Like officers in other agencies, members of the Alberta Sheriffs chose a career in law enforcement out of a desire to serve and protect the community. We welcome and embrace this opportunity to work alongside our partners at the Calgary Police Service, and we hope to bring a reassuring and visible presence to people in the city.”
The sheriffs’ deployment is scheduled to start on Feb. 27 and finish on May 31. The sheriffs and Calgary police will then evaluate the project before deciding on any next steps.
“Through many conversations with Calgarians and the business community, we have clearly heard the need to take further action around public safety. We appreciate the province's short-term support to reinforce Calgary Police Service efforts in our city centre. These additional resources will help connect people to the services they require, creating a safer, more supportive environment for all.”
Supporting police officers when responding to emergency mental health calls
Alberta’s government continues to work with Calgary Police Service and other local police services to address mental health and addiction as health-care issues while keeping communities safe. To help improve police response to mental health calls and people in crisis, Alberta’s government continues to expand the provincial rollout of the HealthIM system. This innovative system is already in place in Edmonton, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Camrose, as well as the RCMP’s west and central divisions. HealthIM will be available to Calgary Police Service later in 2023.
This digital tool equips police officers with evidence-based resources and information to better assess the needs of someone experiencing a mental health crisis. Through HealthIM, officers have access to de-escalation techniques, a mental health risk screening tool and information sharing with health facilities and community-based services.
In December 2022, Alberta’s government established two cabinet task forces to bring community partners together to address the issues of addiction, homelessness and public safety in Calgary and Edmonton. The two Public Safety and Community Response Task Forces are responsible for implementing $187 million in provincial funding to further build out a recovery-oriented system of addiction and mental health care. The initiatives being implemented are part of a fair, firm and compassionate approach to keeping communities safe while treating addiction and mental health as health-care issues.
- Alberta Sheriffs are peace officers and those involved with the pilot project are being temporarily reassigned as part of their regular duties, which include specialized roles and areas of jurisdiction, such as: traffic enforcement and commercial vehicle safety on provincial highways, conservation law enforcement, Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods teams investigating problem properties, prisoner escort and security at provincial courthouses, and security at the Alberta legislature.
- Sheriffs’ participation in the pilot project is covered by the organization’s existing budget.
- Almost $2.4 million over three years is supporting the provincial implementation of HealthIM.
- Albertans struggling with opioid addiction can contact the Virtual Opioid Dependency Program (VODP) by calling 1-844-383-7688, seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. VODP provides same-day access to addiction medicine specialists. There is no wait-list.