From Saskatoon StarPhoenix, April 21, 2017
A program that aims to make apartment buildings safer reported a decline in criminal activity of 38.2 per cent in 2016, the Saskatoon board of police commissioners heard Thursday.
The crime free multi-housing program works with property owners and managers of 445 apartment buildings in Saskatoon to make rental housing safer. Incidents at the buildings declined by 1,789 events in 2016 compared to 2015, according to a report presented at the board meeting.
The program targets buildings with the highest crime rates in the city, such as those in the 1400 block of 20th Street West and The Lighthouse Supported Living facility on 20th Street downtown, the report says.
The report uses the example of a 31-unit building on 22nd Street West that upon inspection did not meet six out of nine security requirements. After the 2015 inspection, the security issues were addressed, including replacing or repairing deadbolt locks on suite doors, door viewers and window/patio door locks. Insufficient exterior lighting was also addressed.
After that, calls to police dropped by 34.2 per cent or 110 calls, and criminal activities decreased by 15, or 32.6 per cent.
Police set to save $1 million
The Saskatoon Police Service expects to save nearly $1 million in 2017 as part of efforts to address a $9-million shortfall created by the March 22 provincial budget.
Police Chief Clive Weighill told the meeting the biggest savings will come from $714,000 planned for salary increases in 2017. City council approved chopping $3.5 million earmarked for city salary increases in 2017 in order to address the shortfall.
“We are following what the rest of the city is doing,” Weighill said.
Police also expect to save an additional $250,000 in energy costs at their headquarters on 25th Street, Weighill said. He noted the force counted $650,000 in energy savings in 2016. Police operations are not expected to be affected, he added.
Like other collective agreements governing city workers, the police union contract has expired.
Police to target jaywalkers
The conundrum presented by Aden Bowman high school students jaywalking across Clarence Avenue has landed in the lap of city police.
The board of police commissioners endorsed referring the matter to the police to consider extra enforcement at the location.
Options to address students jaywalking across Clarence to get to the strip mall east of the high school — including a decorative fence and a mid-street crosswalk —were rejected in March by a city council committee.
The school’s community council favoured a crosswalk, but city administration opposed the idea, saying a crosswalk in the middle of the street would present an unexpected element for drivers.
Council instead endorsed increased enforcement and the use of radar speed boards.
Restricting vehicles in wooded area backed
The board of police commissioners backed in principle the idea of restricting motor vehicle access to a wooded area southwest of the Montgomery neighbourhood.
Saskatoon resident and activist Julia Adamson appeared before the board on Thursday to explain how barriers set up on the east and south entrances of the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area had helped reduce illegal motor vehicle access.
The board heard that the main problems happen from spring through fall, when people use the remote area for parties. The motion from the board will be forwarded to council’s planning, development and community services committee.
Mayor Charlie Clark said he is concerned about committing police resources to patrol the area and respond to calls when barriers might present a cheaper solution.
-Phil Tank, Saskatoon StarPhoenix