The Old Strathcona Business Association (OSBA) is launching a mass letter-writing campaign asking the Edmonton Public Safety and Community Response Task Force to take action to improve safety in the district. “The work we do as a Business Improvement Area is vital to support economic development in our community, but we are facing huge challenges with public safety that go well beyond what we, as a non-profit association, can do. We recognize that the challenges we face in Old Strathcona are multi-faceted which is why we need the provincial and municipal governments to step up,” states OSBA Executive Director Cherie Klassen.
This letter-writing campaign is a more fulsome approach to the efforts that began last summer. After noticing an influx of broken windows and vandalism in the neighbourhood, we advocated to the City of Edmonton for a broken window grant which was approved. Since the grant launched in the spring, we’ve received a dozen applications and provided nearly $10,000 in funding to support businesses. But we hear that business owners need more support than that.
“We’ve had several break-ins, robberies, and safety incidents over the last few months that have negatively impacted our new business,” says Cory Richard, owner of Lewis Mayhem who recently applied successfully to the window repair grant. “The cost of repairing our space coupled with having to upgrade our security makes it nearly impossible for us to operate a business on Whyte. It takes a person 30 seconds to smash out a window and it takes six months for a business like ours to recover from the cost of that action. While we are very thankful to have the broken window grant to help us financially, it only covers a small fraction of the costs. There is certainly a need for more support, especially for more police presence on Whyte Ave. We are behind the OSBA’s request for this additional support.”
The letter campaign comes after overwhelming feedback from member businesses at the OSBA’s Spring General Meeting and in the annual member survey stating that safety is one of their most pressing issues, having decreased continuously over the last few years. The letter advocates for 7-day/week policing, a point that we have been advocating for over a year with the Edmonton Police Commission and City of Edmonton. In addition, we’re requesting the implementation of an outreach street team which would bridge the gap between businesses, marginalized populations, and law enforcement.
The letter requests improved financial support as well, including an expansion of the already existing window repair grant to include eligibility for other store features that face frequent vandalism. We also introduced the idea of a Security Optimized Store (SOS) Grant which would encourage proactive security measures like cameras and tamper-proof waste bins.
While we commend the Edmonton Police Service’s recent initiative to focus on open-air drug use and social disorder as part of their Safer Public Spaces program, it is only a part of a broader safety strategy required in our district. We have met with various City officials who have acknowledged the issues at hand, however, this campaign shows it is urgent that these issues be addressed immediately.