A private security firm has been patrolling Edmonton’s streets at night, hired by the Downtown Business Association (DBA) after months of escalating complaints about trash, violence and vandalism.
The Downtown Night Patrol, which started quietly in January and launched publicly last week, runs from 12:30 to 8:30 a.m., seven days a week, to fill gaps in police patrols.
“There were concerns raised by businesses, by visitors to downtown, workers in the downtown core, where they just didn’t feel safe,” says the DBA’s operations manager Dinu Alex. “We thought, ‘OK, let’s put something in place that is not going to eliminate the problem, but at least it will give us a chance to be more proactive and deal with some of the issues.’”
Night Patrollers work in pairs consisting of a guard from Backwoods Security and a peer support worker from Hiregood, the social enterprise arm of Boyle Street Community Services, and they cruise the streets and alleys in a white and purple branded GMC Terrain SUV.
The lack of direct police involvement bears similarities to citizen patrol groups in rural Alberta that formed in recent years out of frustration with RCMP response times and a perception of rising property crimes. Alex, however, says the DBA is not clashing with the Edmonton Police Service, and has worked with them to figure out the best times and places to patrol.
“At the end of the day we’re not trying to step on anybody’s toes,” Alex says.
“We’re not actually intervening and trying to do anything like how cops would step in. Our role is to be in places where they are not.”