Halfway through a 15-week deployment aimed at deterring and responding to crime in Edmonton’s inner city, two combined teams of Alberta Sheriffs and Edmonton Police Service (EPS) officers have taken wanted criminals, drugs and weapons off the streets while also providing help and support to vulnerable people and area businesses.

As of April 23, the teams had proactively responded to 923 on-view incidents since the project began on Feb. 14, demonstrating how an increased officer presence can provide timely intervention when people need help and lead to safer outcomes.

During that time, officers laid 274 charges against 66 people and executed 2,986 outstanding arrest warrants. While many offenders possessed multiple warrants, the totals still represent a significant number of criminals apprehended by officers – and, in many cases, returned to custody.

“The Alberta Sheriffs have made a substantial difference with their EPS partners to improve public safety in Edmonton’s inner city. The wide range of criminal activity they are taking on, along with their work to help people find the community supports they need, are helping make a positive difference. We will do whatever it takes to keep our streets safe.”

Mike Ellis, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services

The deployment of 12 sheriffs is part of work being done by the provincial government’s Edmonton Public Safety and Community Response Task Force. The sheriffs are part of EPS crime suppression teams working alongside the Healthy Streets Operations Centre, a community safety hub established by the City of Edmonton to deal with crime and social disorder in inner-city neighbourhoods.

“Addressing crime and victimization in Edmonton’s downtown will take collaboration and sustained effort, but we are encouraged by how seamlessly the sheriffs have integrated with our officers. In addition to increasing police visibility, they are helping us make valuable inroads with community engagement while assisting with proactive police activities. It is important that we continue this work to keep Edmonton’s people, communities and businesses safe.”

Dale McFee, chief of police, Edmonton Police Service

The addition of sheriffs has enabled EPS to expand the reach of its crime suppression teams to a wider area that includes Boyle Street and McCauley, and extend coverage to seven from five days a week, 22 hours each day. While the teams respond to criminal activity when needed, EPS uses a multidisciplinary approach that aims to increase public safety by addressing community concerns and preventing crime in ways that don’t necessarily involve enforcement. These teams have transported 74 people to a local shelter or social agency.

“Every Alberta Sheriff signs up to help protect Albertans, whether they live in a small town or a big city like Edmonton. I’m proud of the work we have done for this community so far, and I look forward to even more successes in the coming weeks.”

Farooq Sheikh, chief, Alberta Sheriffs

The sheriffs’ deployment is scheduled to end on May 31. The sheriffs and Edmonton police will then evaluate the pilot project, looking at several metrics before deciding on any next steps. This includes determining if there was a reduction in calls for service from the public, a decrease in the severity of incidents and reduced victimization.

Highlights and examples of community policing during the pilot:

  • The teams have recovered nearly $125,000 in stolen property.
  • Officers have seized drugs with an estimated street value of more than $50,000.
  • Sheriffs and EPS officers patrolling the Central LRT station encountered three men blocking the entrance to the station. After one of the men told officers he was banned from the station, they arrested him for trespassing. Officers learned the man was under bail conditions prohibiting him from possessing weapons and banning him from possessing mail or identification unless it belonged to him. Officers found two pepper spray canisters, a knife and several pieces of government ID, bank cards and cheques in his possession. He was charged with 23 new criminal offences.
  • A concerned citizen flagged down members when a woman passed out at a bus stop after using fentanyl. Sheriffs and EPS officers remained with the woman until a Crisis Diversion Team arrived to assist.    
  • During a patrol with Edmonton Transit peace officers, the team saw a man collapse and suffer a seizure at an LRT station. Sheriffs and EPS officers held the man’s head to prevent further injury and provided care until paramedics arrived.