Council asks for report on anti-gang and crime reduction strategies with community partners

A Prince Albert city councillor wants the city to be more proactive in its approach to reducing crime, and that may mean more money for anti-gang or crime reduction programs.

Ward 2 Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp said supporting current programs, like the anti-gang strategy operated by the West Flat Citizens Group through the Bernice Sayese Centre, will make Prince Albert safer while also saving money down the road.

Lennox-Zepp brought forward a motion at the last council meeting asking for a report on how the city contributes to those programs. It passed following a brief debate, but Lennox-Zepp emphasized that this is about discussion. Nothing has been decided.

“It’s just a report at this stage,” she said after the meeting. “I’d like to hear options.”

The West Flat Citizens Group was one of 10 community based organizations to receive $20,000 in funding last year as part of Saskatchewan’s anti-gang strategy. Saskatoon-based anti-gang organization Str8 Up has been helping Prince Albert develop their strategy. Str8 Up started receiving $750,000 in federal funding last December. That funding is part of a four year partnership.

Mayor Greg Dionne said there’s no evidence at this point the group needs more funding, and if they do, they’re welcome to bring their case to council.

“I think it’s prudent that we should wait for them,” he explained. “It’s their program. We don’t have a request from them. I don’t think we should be, at this point, stepping forward.”

Dionne said the organization was scheduled to bring an update to council in 2021. He added that a lot of the calls for service police receive stem from addictions or mental health issues, but said the provincial government needs to step in and help with funding.

Lennox-Zepp said she’d rather see the city be more proactive, instead of wait for funding requests from community organizations.

“If we as a city contribute additionally to the gang reduction strategy, that could potentially reap rewards later,” she explained. “If we can improve in gang reduction, then we as a city could potentially reduce some crime, and not have to (contribute) such a large amount of funds into our policing work.”

Prince Albert spent roughly $21.4-million on policing in 2019, according to the most recent Prince Albert Police Service annual report. Prince Albert reached a four-year high on the Crime Severity Index in 2017, but those numbers declined slightly in 2018. The 2018 numbers show decreases in reported break-ins and property crime, but increases in violent offences, like assaults. The number of youth charged with crimes also hit a five-year low in 2018.

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