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Saskatoon community leaders come together to address growing violence, safety concerns

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The City of Saskatoon, the fire department, and the police service are uniting to launch nearly a dozen initiatives in hopes of cracking down on crime and improving safety.

The joint effort aims to address the growing number of people facing homelessness, reduction of services, and rise in violence.

“We are seeing a rise in violence and victimization. It is having an impact on families, neighbourhoods, and public services,” Mayor Charlie Clark said.

Violent crime has increased by about 10 per cent in the first quarter of 2024 compared to last year, according to statistics from Saskatoon police.

Incoming police chief Cam McBride said that data does not take into account the city’s growth in population.

He said police are taking action to help curb crime.

“No later than July 1 of 2024, there will be several initiatives undertaken,” McBride told media on Monday.

He said those initiatives include three more officers to the community mobilization unit, five new alternative response officers, and four more patrol officers.

There will also be six new community support officers to help monitor the transit system.

The city said it will increase patrols of the downtown, Confederation Mall, and Market Mall transit terminals.

Meanwhile, concerns for the city’s most vulnerable grow, as the fire department’s statistics show an uptick in overdoses and the number of encampments has doubled from last year.

“There are more and more people who are experiencing homelessness in Saskatoon. The numbers increase but the services are not,” acting Fire Chief Pamela Goulden-Mcleod said.

Mayor Clark said the reduction of hours for services such as Prairie Harm Reduction, four library branches, and the Emergency Overnight Warming Centre has created a gap in resources.

The city is considering implementing public washrooms with 24-hour staffing and security.

“The washrooms would ideally be connected to a navigation hub, with staff that could direct people to services,” Goulden-Mcleod said.

“When you come in to use that washroom location, it’s a value-added service and you’re receiving additional supports.”

The city said it continues to search for locations for temporary and permanent provincial shelters.

Meanwhile, Clark said calls to the province for longer-term solutions have not yet been answered.

“Longer term solutions for the people with complex needs is the piece that I believe we have not got the answers for, and I believe we need the answers very quickly,” Clark said.

He said the city’s Housing Accelerator Fund will help prioritize the development of affordable and supportive housing.

“That’s how we need to meet these needs ultimately,” he said.

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