Saskatoon police taking a zero-tolerance approach towards public intoxication: Number of intoxicated people placed in police cells on the rise

From CBC News Saskatoon, May 24, 2017

Saskatoon police Chief Clive Weighill says officers are arresting more people who are drunk or high on city streets.

After receiving complaints from the public and business groups, Weighill has instituted a zero-tolerance approach to public intoxication in downtown areas.

"We've had a lot of people that were walking around downtown, Riversdale, the Broadway area that were intoxicated," he said. "We want to make sure people are safe on the streets."

According to a new report, police put 1,814 intoxicated people into holding cells last year. In 2015, that number sat at 1,578 cases.

From 2012-15, those numbers had been dropping.

Weighill said those increasing numbers show a substantial strain on services that are available, and the need for more long-term, stable shelter for people suffering from addiction. 

"When you look at the numbers of people who are using the services, the police, the brief detox or The Lighthouse, they've almost quadrupled over the past four or five years," he said. "There are a lot of people in need in Saskatoon and we just haven't got the capacity to deal with it."

The situation has been compounded after the province changed funding for The Lighthouse last year. As a result, the program's daytime emergency shelter service was cut, limiting its operating hours to 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. CST.

However, the police report stated that The Lighthouse's role began to decline even before then, due to a number of people deemed ineligible for stabilization beds at the shelter for behavioural issues.

As well, the report said the city's Brief Detox Unit is often overwhelmed and "has been too full, too early in the day to allow the Saskatoon Police Service to use the facility" as an alternative for police cells.

Weighill said the policy is not directed at people who've only had a few drinks, but is aimed at those making the streets feel unsafe. 

Saskatoon's Board of Police Commissioners will be discussing the report Wednesday afternoon.