News / Calgary

'Really inspired:' Calgary community fights crime through urbanism, helps police

When faced with theft and drug deals Bridgeland residents took matters into their own hands

Community art in Bridgeland was created by residents help deter crime.

Elizabeth Cameron/ for Metro

Community art in Bridgeland was created by residents help deter crime.

When public art meets crime prevention, vigilantism is the last tool a community needs to combat delinquents.

As communities in Calgary face petty and serious crime spikes, police aren’t a guarantee to ward off pesky villains – there just isn’t enough manpower. But a sense of community can go a long way to dealing with miscreants; That’s something neighbours in Bridgeland, Riverside and Crescent Heights have taken to heart.

Ali McMillan, the community association planning director said it all started just before Christmas when residents were noticing that corners of their community, which were in flux because of new developments, were targets for criminal activity.

Ali McMillan gives Metro a tour of the public intervention work being done in the Bridgeland and Riverside areas to deter crime.

Elizabeth Cameron/ for Metro

Ali McMillan gives Metro a tour of the public intervention work being done in the Bridgeland and Riverside areas to deter crime.

She said they did a workshop between community, business, city and police to determine what was outside of their control, and what the neighbourhood could do right away to help.

“People got really inspired,” McMillan said. A Facebook page called Bridgeland Love was founded to highlight tactical urbanism projects, and small tasks the communities could do to take ownership of their area.

“A bunch of kids with the Syrian Refugee centre made some pipe cleaner animals and flowers to decorate this tree,” McMillan said. “It’s in kind of a park that’s in an alleyway where we have a lot of issues…we’re trying and we’re working with parks to take back that park.”

Elizabeth Cameron/ for Metro

McMillan said they’re following Crime Prevention through Public Design principles to show that the community has ownership of that space, along with the Broken Window theory.

“The reality is there is only so much to go around,” said Calgary Police Service community resource officer Cst. Glenn Pedersen. “Every community has issues, it’s easy to say a simple solution would be for us to be there more often when it’s just not possible.”

He said a philosophy that Bridgeland-Riverside has adopted – which he’s applauding them for – is taking ownership of their community.

Elizabeth Cameron/ for Metro

Next, the community plans to move around sea cans, and clean up issues to control where people walk. They’re activating streets with dog walking groups, considering giant chess games on street corners and any idea imaginable to better the community and drive away criminals.

“The initiatives are stronger when communities are in the driver's seat, but they don’t go anywhere unless the city’s behind it. ” said Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra. “When you have social disorder and crime taking place on your streets, communities have to be involved.”

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