Downtown violence prompts hiring of six new officers

Ben Lemphers/for metro edmonton


Transit users wait at the bus stop outside the main doors of the Stanley Milner Public Library downtown. Violent incidents and intimidation have prompted the hiring of six community service officers.

« I don’t like this station and if there weren’t other people around I wouldn’t be here now. It’s scary. »

Police are hiring six new security people to curb escalating violence, often in broad daylight, in front of Edmonton’s downtown library.

The community service officers will monitor the Stanley Milner Library and the city’s showpiece Churchill Square.

"The community service officers will be hired specifically to deal with the area and are basically one step under police officers and one step above security officers," said EPS acting Sgt. Serge Soucy of community services.

The most recent reported incident was a robbery in front of the library on Friday afternoon. A man was punched by three males between 16 and 18 years old who then took his wallet and ran off. Police are still investigating the incident.

The new officers won’t be armed with handguns but will carry batons and have the authority to hand out tickets.

"Statistics have proved that visible patrol helps reduce crime in the community. It’s good to know they are there but it’s better to see that they are there chasing away the bad guys," he added.

There are also plans to hire 12 more such officers for Whyte Avenue and for the West division. Police are recruiting the library officers in the next couple of weeks and then there will be a two-week training period.

"There are always drug deals going on and you can see everything through the window as it’s happening. You see different gangs of people hanging out there all the time," said an employee of a coffee shop adjacent to the library, requesting his name be withheld.

"I know I’ve been scared to walk in the area lately."

Two weeks ago a 12-year-old boy named Taylor was transferring buses in front of the library with a friend when a group of three older females followed him and pushed him into a corner, threatening him and taking his MP3 player.

"It was scary and now when I go to that area I wait inside the library and I don’t carry anything with me," Taylor said.

Another transit rider named Stacy was waiting for the bus in front of the library yesterday but said normally she gets on down the street for safety.

"I wouldn’t normally come here but I have to take this bus today. I don’t like this station and if there weren’t other people around I wouldn’t be here now. It’s scary," she said.

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