Whyte Avenue program to return this summer, despite concerns
A city-funded program aimed at curbing rowdiness will be returning to Whyte Avenue this summer, even though the initiative is short on identifying any measurable progress in crime reduction during its inaugural year.
The program includes three open-air urinals meant to keep the entertainment district cleaner, graffiti removal, better alleyway lighting, late-night transportation and a patron responsibility campaign.
Headed up by Responsible Hospitality Edmonton, the program could also one day include the installation of security cameras in high-risk areas along the popular strip to "monitor behaviour and establish awareness of consequences," according to the group’s report submitted to city council’s executive committee yesterday.
But Mayor Stephen Mandel said he’s concerned about the group’s activities because they provided no measurable statistics in their report to reveal what kind of impact, if any, their initiatives have had on decreasing crime or making the area safer.
"That’s my concern," he said. "Up until now we inherently believe that this is a success but we’re not sure we’ve seen the measurables that say that it is."
Launched in April in response to growing concerns over bar violence, the group rolled out a series of unconventional projects last summer that treat Whyte Avenue as one big venue.
One of their ideas included the purchase of three open-air urinals for $20,000, placed on city streets as businesses were complaining about the "activities" of late-night partiers after last call. The urinals will be back again this year, rolled out in the spring.
Joyce Tustian, the city’s general manager of corporate services, said it’s simply too early to tell what kind of impact their alternative ideas have had on changing the district’s reputation, but anecdotal evidence indicates they’ve had a positive outcome.
"We really need a year to get a sense," she said. "What we’re doing right now is finding a baseline, and we hope to track it (crime) from there."