Police Chief Rod Knecht has confirmed the first two of several planned closures of community police stations will happen at the end of this month. The staff involved in the two stations, in Old Strathcona and in Namao will be re-allocated as school resource officers.
“Where we are shutting down some of the store fronts, those resources are going into junior high schools,” Knecht told reporters at his semi-regular ‘coffee with the chief’ session. “This will be a pilot program that we’ll look at, at the end of this school year and it is my hope, depending on what the resourcing issue looks like this time next year, that we can expand the program into more junior high schools through out the city.”
Eight schools will be involved. Knecht said he’s meeting with both school boards to finalize locations and hopes to announce them some time next week. It’s a cost saving move, that will allow officers more time to do the background work that has to go into policing.
“We see that as us being out there more. Our police officers don’t have to come all the way back to the station to do their paper work. They can stop in during the day, in the evening when there’s school programs, sports events, etcetera, and at 3 o’clock in the morning they’ll be in those schools on some occasions.”
He said store front locations at one time made a lot of sense, however with on-line reporting becoming more popular with the public, the need for community stations has diminished.
“In some of these community stations we’re getting four visitors a day, eight visitors a day, and I’ll be quite frank, sometimes those are the same visitors day after day,” he said.
“It’s just people that want to drop in and have a coffee and kibitz a little bit, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when our calls for service are backed up and we’ve got somebody that’s just engaging eight people a day, when we could have that same police officer in a school environment, engaging 100, 200 youth a day we’re just going to get a bigger bang for our buck we think in the long run.”
A large number of station visits come from the 28,000 motor vehicle collisions there are on Edmonton’s roads. The EPS is setting up several collision reporting locations around the city that they had hoped would have been launched a year ago, but have been tied up in provincial red tape over privacy concerns. Knecht said an announcement he hopes will come on that in the next few weeks.