Podcast litigates crime-prevention theory used to block Boyle Street's latest application

Podcast litigates crime-prevention theory used to block Boyle Street's latest application

· The Pulse

A decades-old theory that police have influenced in practice appears to be the latest mechanism employed to refuse a permit for Boyle Street Community Services's planned Mahihkan Kamik overdose-prevention site in Ritchie, guest Jack Farrell explained on Episode 267 of Speaking Municipally.

"I have just thought about this theory for years and years and years, and lost sleep over it," said Farrell, who's an Edmonton-based journalist for the St. Albert Gazette but covered the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design theory as a journalism student at MacEwan University

Farrell recounted the history of the theory, often referred to as CPTED, and how former mayor Jan Reimer helped code it into Edmonton's land-use policies with assistance from the Edmonton Police Service back in the 1990s.

That codification remains and the city's Subdivision and Development Appeal Board employed it recently in its second rejection of Boyle Street's permit application to create an overdose-prevention site at 10119 81 Avenue NW. Last July, the SDAB rejected Boyle Street's first application, that time finding fault because the building was not universally accessible.

Co-hosts Troy Pavlek and Mack Male noted the SDAB decision points to the site's parking lot and its purported lack of natural surveillance as a concern.

Farell said CPTED principles like natural surveillance date back to the 1970s, and that the theory's many critics have suggested police have since pushed the theory deep into municipal land-use decisions. He even repeated a quote given to him three years ago by Barry Davidson, a founder of The International CPTED Association. "Part of the problem — and I hate to speak ill of my fellow CPTED practitioners — is that the vast majority of people that are doing this (work) don't have an academic background," Davidson said at the time. "A lot of the people that are doing it, to be honest, are police officers. There's not a lot of research that supports (its effectiveness)."

Pavlek suggested the SDAB decision is part of a series of zoning technicalities that have prevented Boyle Street's ambitions that "don't pass the smell test." Male added that Ben Rix of Bent Stick Brewing (which is located near the intended site), told CBC: "If you keep saying not in my backyard, at what point do you just run out of backyards?"

Farrell said the theory still has the potential to prevent crime and improve design if appropriately applied. "A lot of people have spent a lot of time working on this theory," he said. "We only get the police version of it now, when there's a possibility that it could achieve a lot more if we updated it and maybe got it out of city land-use bylaws."

Hear more about Boyle Street, the Edmonton Police Commission's refusal to release its audit plan to council, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi's polling numbers, and a new segment from Taproot's managing editor, Tim Querengesser on the June 7 episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast.

Image: The permit for an overdose-prevention site from Boyle Street Community Services has been revoked by a civic authority again. The decision is partly due to the agency's failure to apply principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design theory. (Facebook)

Correction: This file has been updated to correct the attribution of a quote by Barry Davison. It was incorrectly attributed to Jack Farrell.