Night Patrol and Safe Walk aim to ease anxieties and improve public safety
Downtown safety has become a growing concern for students. The Downtown Business Association has launched a new program called Night Patrol that will have security teams patrolling the streets of downtown during the night. But, students are skeptical.
This $40,000 year-long project is funded by the Downtown Business Association. Guards from Backwoods Security Service and peer support workers from Hiregood will patrol downtown Edmonton from 12:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.
The Downtown Business Association aims to improve public safety through check-ins, de-escalating physical confrontations, cleaning vandalism, and enforcing a secure presence.
There are many benefits to having a university campus in the heart of downtown. MacEwan is within walking distance from museums, businesses, and restaurants. However, Edmonton’s downtown area has a safety issue that has gotten worse over the years.
“The area is very on edge though, you can feel it in the air.”
Seth, first year open studies student
As a result, Edmontonians’ perceptions of downtown have become rather negative. In a poll, 55 per cent of the poll’s participants expressed that downtown Edmonton has deteriorated in recent years.
The introduction of the Night Patrol project does little to lessen the concerns students have about downtown safety.
Laytan A., a second-year science student, thinks that downtown needs all-day safety patrols, not only at night. “I personally try my best to not even get close to 9 p.m. if I’m on campus,” says Laytan. “They should implement the safety protocol all day long, since you see some really sketchy and messy stuff around campus from non-students.”
“Not even close enough,” says Seth, a first-year open studies student, “who has classes that end at midnight?”
There are on-campus efforts at building a safe environment for students. Safe Walk is a SAMU service that offers students the means to access their car and public transportation with the safety of another person accompanying them.
The service runs from 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. to accommodate students with evening classes.
“Safewalk is walking other students to LRT stations, their car sometimes – sometimes it’s their home if they’re close enough.”
Annette Kelm, manager for student services
Annette Kelm, a student services manager with SAMU, urges students to use and volunteer for Safe Walk and other services that promote campus safety such as Coalition for Harm Reduction (CHARM) or the MacEwan Anti-Violence Education Network (MAVEN).
Kelm states that Safe Walk needs to be available to students, even if it simply eases concerns. “Being open and available for students if they’re looking for that is more important to me than hundreds and hundreds of walks.”
The Night Patrol program will operate for a year before the Downtown Business Association reassesses if the program can be maintained.
Photo by Thai Sirikoone