Outgoing DECL president reflects on complexity of downtown safety

Outgoing DECL president reflects on complexity of downtown safety

Safety issues downtown are multidimensional and need to be addressed with more than just a greater police presence, says Chris Buyze, the outgoing president of the Downtown Edmonton Community League.

"You have houseless folks, you have people who are addicted to drugs, involved in criminal activity or gangs, occupying public spaces, and how do you solve these problems?" Buyze told Episode 219 of Speaking Municipally. "It's not as simple as saying, 'Well, you just need more policing' or something like that. You need housing supports, you need social support, you need policy changes, that kind of stuff."

Downtown had been on an upward trajectory during much of Buyze's 16 years at the helm of DECL, but social disorder grew in the wake of the pandemic, pulling the community league into "one of the most complex issues I've ever tried to understand," as Buyze described it.

"I can't say that I have all the answers," he said. "More that we are more involved in these conversations than we ever have been in the past."

While he has been replaced by Cheryl Probert as president of DECL, Buyze will continue to be involved in those conversations as a member of the Downtown Recovery Coalition, a lobby group interested in economic growth in the core.

Despite the challenges, Buyze remains optimistic about projects such as Warehouse Park, which should be completed by 2025.

"That's going to be definitely a transformational project, and hopefully encourage further residential development," he said.

Hear more from Buyze in the May 5 episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast. You will also hear Taproot reporter Colin Gallant on the Edmonton International Airport's newest passenger recovery projections and a thwarted development in the Villeneuve Airport Area, as well as an update on the Summer Streets event.

Photo: Chris Buyze (left) accepts a farewell bouquet from Anand Pye of NAIOP (right) on his final night as president of the Downtown Edmonton Community League. (LinkedIn)