Community Support Officer (CSO) Pilot Project

Crime and Policing in the Beltline

For some years, Beltline has been advocating for an increase in police presence in the community.  City Council responded by approving a motion in November 2008 to fund an extra 10 police officers and 25 new bylaw officers for the downtown and Beltline.  The extra funding marks the resurgence of the successful and popular Community Support Officer (CSO) pilot project.  The program allows bylaw officers to deal with lesser complaints of vandalism, littering, loitering and noise complaints, freeing up more time for police to deal with serious offences.  An increased communication and interaction with the community is facilitated by officers who patrol the streets on foot and on bicycles. 

Ward 8 Alderman John Mar believes the addition of police on the streets is a first step in dealing with crime in the area which includes urban decay indicators such as drug use and graffiti. 

Increase police officers to keep community safe
City Council approved a motion on Monday November 19th to fund an extra 10 police officers and 25 new bylaw officers for the downtown and Beltline.The bylaw officers marks the resurgence of the successful and popular Community Support Officer (CSO) pilot project that was stopped over two years ago after provincial funding dried up.“I think that bylaw working in consultation with our officers will only enhance our ability to effectively patrol the area,” said police District One Inspector Bob Ritchie speaking to the Buzz in September when the motion was first introduced. “We enjoyed that collaboration and we look forward to it in the future.”The program allows bylaw officers to deal with lesser complaints of vandalism, littering, loitering and noise complaints, freeing up more time for police to deal with serious offences. There is also increased communication and interaction with the community.
The new officers are part of the Clean to the Core initiative by the City of Calgary intended to prevent crime taking over the core.
According to Bill Bruce, director of Bylaw services for the city, the job postings are already up and the new recruits will be on the street by “mid to late February.”
Lessons learned from the pilot project will be incorporated into the new program.“That was our base to start from, we learned a few things from that and we’ve done some things like add the ability to enforce liquor infractions for the bylaw officers,” says Bruce.“We’ve added a few enhancements and this of course will be another learning experience, it will start off at point A and it will move along as we learn more about the characteristics of the neighbourhoods we’re going to be working in, the issues.”John Mar, the newly elected alderman for Ward 8 is pleased with the new funding.“This is something that I’ve been calling for since the early days of the campaign,” says Mar. “As an ex-RCMP officer, I can see very clearly the signs of urban decay, and we have a crime problem, we have drugs, graffiti is often one of the leading indicators of crime through what we would euphemistically refer to as the broken window syndrome.”Broken window posits that if you maintain the urban environment, it instills a sense of pride and prevents crime from escalating.
Mar believes this is only a first step in dealing with crime in the area.

“I think it’s going to be effective, but it’s only the first step in what is needed. To suggest that this will stop or turn this problem around, no, this is phase one of a multi-stage program that we are going to see,” he says.During the municipal campaign, Mar called for 400 extra officers for the city, with 100 of them dedicated to District One. With current budget pressures, this sort of expense is unlikely to come from the city, but there is the possibility of increased provincial support.“Recently Premier Stelmach introduced a proposal for an anti-crime initiative. We’re waiting to see what that’s going to look like. I’m hoping there will be additional funding for policing, and if Premier Stelmach says there’s going to be 2,000 new police officers in Alberta, we’re hoping that a third of those police officers will be heading to Calgary.”The November 6 provincial announcement was a response to a panel report entitled “Keeping Communities Safe”. One of the recommendations in the report, accepted by the government, was increased police numbers.