Premier Scott Moe said existing policing programs and increasing mental health and addictions supports will help to curb crime in Prince Albert.
Joined by fellow incumbent Joe Hargave (Prince Albert Carlton) and Prince Albert Northcote candidate Alanna Ross, Moe’s comments came during a press conference in the city Saturday when he was asked about the recent increase in shootings and attempted murder cases in the city and what could be done to curb the recent spike. Improving mental health and addictions support while continuing to fund police officers on the street will help to address the issue, Moe said.
“We need to continually work with our communities across the province ion initiatives that we have put in place. With those initiatives have come funding for actual police officers on the ground …. To deal with youth supports but also to deal with gang-related issues in Prince Albert and the surrounding area,” he said.
He added that some RCMP resources in the area are also tackling the issue of guns, drugs and gangs.
Hargrave added that the province funds 19 police officers in the city.
“They’re working on the gang strategy — we’re working with them on that strategy,” he said.
He said, while the problem “appears to be accelerating,” thanks to the “good work of the police service, they’ve arrested some individuals in relation to this recent spike.
“We’ll continue to work with them on the strategies they have and look forward to increasing participation from the government to help with this strategy. We have a good police force. They’re well-dedicated We know it’s a mountain to climb, but we’re working our way up on that.”
Moe said that more officers aren’t the whole solution.
“There is the support side of this conversation. This is where we need to continue with the conversation and back it up with funding.”
He said the province has seen record funding in mental health and addictions the past two years, with beds opening dedicated to crystal meth rehabilitation. He also promoted his party’s plan to open urgent care centre in Saskatoon and Regina with a mental health and addictions component.
The new hospital, he said, will have a mental health care and addictions component both in the emergency room and in ensuring people are able to access services province-wide.
He also said his government has increased detox beds in Regina, Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Moose Jaw.
“There is more work to be done,” Moe said.
“I understand we can’t arrest our way out of this challenge, but law enforcement is part of this. We need to keep these very toxic drugs off our streets and out of our family members’ hands, but we also need to ensure supports are available for those very same family members o they have an opportunity to do better.”
As for homelessness, Moe said the government has a cold-weather strategy in place right now, and a homelessness strategy for COVID-19 that connects people in need of housing with hotel rooms to self-isolate and empty homes through Sask. Housing.
He said, though, that his party “is always open” to conversations about how it can support the community’s most vulnerable “ to transition them into a home of their own.”
The answer was in response to a question about funding for cold weather shelter beds.
During a presentation in front of council last week, YWCA executive director Donna Brooks said the province only funds four of the organization’s male shelter beds. They’re seeking to run an 18-hour 20-bed shelter this year, an expansion on their 12-hour ten-bed emergency shelter.
While this year’s project has been made possible by a one-time federal grant, Brooks said she’d like to continue the program, and that she has been advocating for funding for years.
“This is a need in Prince Albert. It’s been a need for a long time,” Brooks said after a council meeting last week.
“I’m hoping this is the catalyst that helps it take off. We definitely have a need for more funding groups at the table. We have no core funding for men. The only male beds the province funds are four beds of the cold weather shelter, and that’s it. We need them to come to the table to help fund this as well as helping fund some of the male beds in our existing shelter.”