SASKATOON -- The Saskatoon Police Service is asking for more money in the city’s budget to add additional resources related to the safe consumption site set to open next year.
The force wants $1.6 million for eight new officers for a “Community Mobilization Unit.” The request is contained in a report to be tabled for approval at the Nov. 6 meeting of Board of Police Commissioners.
“Our research suggests that without a proactive and ongoing community safety plan there is a high likelihood for increased crime and disorder in areas surrounding the site,” the report says.
The area near the proposed site at 20th Street and Avenue P is already "challenged with some higher than average levels of offendng and it consumes a lot of police resources now and we expect that will continue," Police Chief Troy Cooper told CTV News.
The police service says crime trends support having two officers on dedicated patrol on a “24 hour rotational basis." Officers should also have training on how to deal with the those facing addictions and understand the principles of harm reduction, the report says.
Cooper said the officers will primarily focus on the safe consumption site but will also help patrol in the downtown, Riversdale and Pleasant Hill - a part of the city that already needs the attention of 40 per cent of the force.
The request comes after the city’s preliminary budget was released, proposing an additional three officers in 2020 and four in 2021.
However, the budget says more officers are needed due to the city's growth.
Cooper said the seven officers were approved at a time when the force was seeing a decline in calls for service and the city had recorded four homicides at the midway point of the year.
"The community has spoken very loudly about the need for additional police resources and we know these are tough economic times and that lots of really hard decisions have to be made, and I think if we just came up with a solution for supervised consumption I think that would have fallen short of what's expected of us."
Dean Pringle, president of the Saskatoon Police Association, union representing officers, said the force should aim to achieve the national benchmark standard of 185 officers per 100,000 people. Saskatoon is about 35 to 40 per cent short of that mark and requires seven more officers annually, he said.
Pringle said he hopes council sees the seven additional officers over the next two years as insufficient and makes it a priority to add more.