Edmonton police say calls for service have fallen near downtown safe injection sites over the last several months.
“We’ve seen a reduction of calls for service at some,” Insp. Dan Jones told city councillors Wednesday. “What we’ve seen is a reduction in crime severity in and around the supervised consumption sites as well.”
But Jones, who was updating the community and public services committee on the city’s opioid crisis, ould not say why calls are down.
“I’m not even going to venture a guess why crime is down in those areas. We could suppose all kinds of things and hypothesize all kinds of things. I don’t want to make a comment that’s not true.”
“All I can tell you is, statistically, crime’s down within 250-metre radius of the sites.”
Calls for service dropped 36 per cent near the injection site at Boyle McCauley Health Centre, 10628 96th St., since it opened in November 2018, Jones said.
Edmonton’s first of four sites opened at Boyle Street Community Services, 10116 105th Ave., in March 2018 followed by the George Spady Centre, 10015 105A Ave.
The fourth site is in the Royal Alexandra Hospital for in-patients.
Jones told the committee that fentanyl is now in almost every street drug.
“People are thinking they’re buying methamphetamines, thinking they’re buying ecstasy, thinking they’re buying something else and they’re actually getting fentanyl,” he said. “That’s a danger.”
Jones noted that the opioid economy is set by the suppliers, unlike most economies that are set by demand.
“You can make more money than you can with most other drugs, so that’s why fentanyl is creeping its way into everything,” Jones said.
The committee also heard from Dr. Chris Sikora, medical officer of health with Alberta Health Services.
Between April and June this year, 56 people in Edmonton died from fentanyl overdoses, up from 36 between January and March, he said.
Province-wide, 153 people died in the second quarter this year, up from 135 people in the first quarter.
“Across the province, we are still seeing high numbers,” Sikora said. “It seems to have plateaued over the past year or so, but those rates, those numbers of deaths, overall are still quite high.”
Health and social agencies, the city and police work together on prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement related to opioids, Sikora said.
“I can’t really guess as to how bad it would be without the approaches or the work that we’ve done,” he said. “I think without the good work, we would have many, many, many more deaths than what we have right now.”
Provincial support for safe consumption sites is in question after the United Conservative government froze funding earlier this year.
The government also created a panel to assess the social and economic impacts of supervised consumption sites.
Results of that panel’s work are expected by December.