Saturday, October 1, 2016

Is Downtown Red Deer Safe?

Hey everyone, do you feel safe in downtown Red Deer?
The other evening I was having a very serious conversation with my wife about her plan to jog from our house to the downtown Rec Centre. She wanted to leave at 7am and head down the Ross St Hill. This time of year the sun comes up around 7:30am. So the plan was for her to make most of the journey in the dark.
Imagine the route that you would take. What would it be like? Would you be able to see? Of course you could, because there are plenty of street lights. Would there be a lot of traffic? Probably, since that is the time of day everyone heads to work. Would you see street people? There’s a good chance; the shelters make everyone head out early in the morning and the streets are where the people must go.
During the course of our conversation we talked about all sorts of these variables, from what side of Ross St is “safer” to which road has better lighting 48th Ave or 47th Ave.
If you ask an expert on Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) they may inform you about the Broken Window Theory. Where there’s a “broken window” that goes unrepaired there will be more crime because our behaviour is influenced by visual cues in our environment that tell us what behaviours are acceptable and what aren’t. Well, in this regard I’d say that Red Deer does pretty well. Our streets are in good repair, litter gets cleaned up well and there aren’t too many boarded up old shacks in our downtown.
I hear the issue of downtown safety come up a lot and for all the challenges we still have, I want to say that things are improving, but it is really hard to measure. Did the Little Gaetz revitalization make that area better for business? Yes. Do all the new back alley murals improve the perception of safety? Absolutely. Do continued efforts from the Downtown Business Association to attract cultural events keep things in a positive direction? Definitely.
For all the positive momentum we have in downtown Red Deer, it’s not all on the up and up. The closure of the day shelter effectively displaced a large group of people who now have even fewer options for daytime activity, showers, storage, laundry etc. It is better for everyone in our community when we take care of the most vulnerable people. We can not lose sight of our resolve to end homelessness and must continue to find innovative ways to put action into ideology.
I am thrilled that Hudsons, near the Ross St Patio, is thriving! Our downtown is benefiting from having more nightlife. I hope this trend continues and that our downtown becomes a destination; a place to arrive to not just drive through. The transition from a “9-5 downtown” which empties out every evening to a “24-7 downtown” which has exciting nightlife and positive energy no matter what the hour, is happening.
On a similar tone, the Riverlands redevelopment is gearing up and in the near future we will see the influx of many new residents into our downtown. I am pleased that the plan to sprawl our city outwards is being balanced by the foresight to grow our city inwards and upwards.
We Red Deerians have a lot to be grateful for. Our community is prosperous, vibrant and, dare I say, safe(er). FYI, my wife ended up driving to the Rec Centre; mostly because it was a cold September morning and not because she was afraid for her life. Now if only optimism was worth its weight in gold.
 Would you go for a pre-sunrise, downtown Red Deer jog? Do you think the downtown is getting safer?
I look forward to hearing your ideas. Send me a message. Let's go for coffee!

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