Dealing with activity on the streets in Saskatoon’s city centre has been a focal point of an initiative launched by the Action Accord in the summer of 2016 in response to the question “Can we do a better job of co-ordinating our efforts to address the issues we are seeing on the city centre streets?”
Recognizing that a relatively small group of people are commonly at the centre of “issues on the streets that are intertwined with public intoxication”, a group of front-line service providers decided it was time to address the issue in a more co-ordinated and focused manner.
As Saskatoon grows, so do the related city centre street activity issues. In early summer, the Community Support Program Officers (CSO’s), Saskatoon Police Service and The Lighthouse, in conjunction with the three Business Improvement Districts in Downtown, Riversdale and Broadway decided it was time for specific and focused action.
Three steps have been undertaken since then:
Improved communication among the front line groups was the initial step, and already the benefits are apparent. Calls from Community Support Program Officers are now tightly linked in to the Police Service GPS system, speeding up the call process and providing greater safety for the CSO’s.
Second, increased interaction and communication about specific street issues between the CSO’s and all members of the Central Division of the Saskatoon Police Service has improved the knowledge base of best practices in dealing with those who are intoxicated in public.
The third step has been to further co-ordinate efforts through heightened information sharing between the service providers on the street, namely the CSO’s and Saskatoon Police Service, and Saskatoon’s stabilization services, including The Lighthouse.
According to Lesley Prefontaine, Supervisor of the Community Support Program, “The experience of service providers is that there is typically a ‘window of opportunity’ to help people who chronically experience intoxication and addictions in public in the city centre. To succeed at that requires enhanced information exchange and improved co-ordination among the service provider groups. We have made great strides with that in the course of the last few months.”
Saskatoon Police Service Staff Sergeant Darren Pringle agrees. “Given that we are often dealing with many of the same people, day in and day out, with regard to public addiction and intoxication, this ‘strategic interaction’ and the steps we have taken toward improved information exchange among the service providers mean we are better positioned for success in helping people move off the streets and toward recovery”.
The service providers and city centre representatives continue to discuss additional concrete steps by which to address an issue that is increasing at least as quickly as the city is growing. The Action Accord will report, on behalf of the groups addressing city centre issues, as additional steps are taken.
Lesley Prefontaine, Supervisor, Community Support Program: (306) 491-9420 S/Sgt. Darren Pringle, Central Division, Saskatoon Police Service: (306) 975-2382 Dwight Percy, Consultant to the Saskatoon Action Accord: (306) 222-1361