Public safety in spotlight during Calgary budget deliberations

The Calgary Police Service and the Calgary Fire Department are hoping to see the city put some extra cash aside for more staff in the upcoming budget.

This comes as budget deliberations continue at city hall that could end as early as Wednesday.

Calgary’s crime hot spots could soon see more attention from police and fire services, as councillors consider a proposed 7.8 per cent residential property tax hike.

Approximately $20 million was requested for transit officers and a new medical unit for the Calgary Fire Department.

WATCH: Day two of Calgary City Council Budget talks

Calgary Transit is hoping council will grant a $15 million annual increase, along with a one-time $2 million investment to allow for safety upgrades to the city’s public transit system.

Aaron Coon, Calgary Transit’s chief of public safety, said this money would fund the hiring of 65 new transit officers.

He added it would help them build on the work that is already underway as part of Calgary Transit’s safety strategy plan.

“Since the beginning of June, we’ve hired 45 peace officers and so what we’ve been able to do is accomplish the rest of the 2022 growth and then start putting resources into the districts,” Coon explained. “Not only are they arriving, but we’re also setting up our district model right now, so our downtown office is set up, we’re setting up the office in Whitehorn right now. “

Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld says residents can expect to see change in respect to transit safety.

Read more: Calgary budget talks kick off Monday

“There’s a place for police on transit and the decision around the model here in Calgary has been to use transit peace officers, which I think is a good model,” he said. “The key here is to make sure we have enough of all of them and we’re working together in an integrated way.”

And as the Calgary Fire Department grapples with the nationwide overdose crisis, Chief Steve Dongworth says they are asking for an additional $3.4 million.

“That will allow us to put an additional medical response unit in the core,” he explained. “We initially thought we’d put it somewhere — Forest Heights actually — but now we see the growth is so explosive in medical call volume downtown, the best impact we can have on service for citizens is to put it in the downtown core.”

Dozens more Calgary police officers are also being hired by the middle of next year. They will be stationed in the downtown area, East Village, and near train stations, with the province footing that bill.

Councillors said they’ve heard residents’ concerns about public safety, and are in the process of considering a 7.8 per cent residential property tax hike.

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