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Teen curfew not the answer to crime

A teen curfew and community engagement were the hot topics of conversation at a town hall meeting into crime in the Akinsdale neighbourhood Thursday night.

A teen curfew and community engagement were the hot topics of conversation at a town hall meeting into crime in the Akinsdale neighbourhood Thursday night.

Almost 100 people showed up to the first meeting for Mayor Nolan Crouse's task force on crime, safety and vandalism in Akinsdale that he proposed during the public hearing for the proposed affordable housing development at 70 Arlington Dr.

Going into the session Crouse said he hoped to engage the community about problems in the area and work on solutions. He's satisfied with how the meeting went.

"I got exactly what I wanted. We got a committee of residents and people were able to communicate what the issues are."

Eight residents came forward to sit on a proposed sub-committee that will look at ways to address safety issues in the neighbourhood.

At the opening of the meeting, Crouse presented statistics showing how relatively small the crime problem is in St. Albert compared to other municipalities, while at the same time highlighting rising statistics.

He also showed that, compared with the citywide average, the southeast sector of the city, which includes Akinsdale, as well as Sturgeon, Forest Lawn, Braeside, Pineview, Woodlands Kingswood and Campbell Business Park has more calls for service on a per capita basis.

Geoff Jorden, one of several residents who volunteered for the new sub-committee, said crime isn't a major issue for Akinsdale, but it's still worth addressing.

"It has always kind of been in the back of our minds."

No support for curfew

Much of the discussion Thursday night centred on a curfew bylaw or more police patrols, which has been previously proposed for the city.

Crouse and RCMP Insp. Warren Dosko both told the crowd they don't support a curfew and would rather work on bringing the community together.

"A lot of people in all of these meetings jump to the conclusion that a youth bylaw or a curfew bylaw that is going to keep 14- and 15-year-olds at home after midnight is going to be the solution," said Crouse. "The statistics are overwhelming that show the criminal activity is adults, young adults."

Dosko said it is important to focus on today's youth so they don't become the criminally inclined young adults of the future.

"If we deal with our young people when they are young kids, when they get to that age they are not going to be major problems."

Simply adding more police won't solve any neighbourhood problem if neighbours don't get to know one another, he said. "If we can get people to know their neighbours and get people to know the young people in their neighbourhood, that is a far more sustainable solution in the long term."

Dosko said he is open to stepping up patrols of the area, but both the community and the police have to work together.

Jorden said he would like to see the community come together and hopes the meeting is the launching point to do just that.

"With meetings like this hopefully we can together and form some kind of community surveillance."

The Arlington Drive debate has brought the neighbourhood together and there is a way to use it positively to make Akinsdale safe, he said.

"We have met more of our neighbours in the last six months than we have in the last six years."