Downtown Edmonton resident, business owner decry growing crime

Kristy Lee is used to hearing sirens near her downtown home, an unwanted soundtrack to the neighbourhood that’s indicative of a pervasive criminality.

“This is regular all the time. Day and night,” she told CityNews.

Lee, who has lived in Central McDougall for a decade, says the area has become noticeably less safe since the COVID-19 pandemic. And it’s having an impact on her daily life.

“This community garden that I helped build, I don’t come here anymore,” she said. “We used to go to festivals in the local area, we don’t do that anymore. So I’ve become so attuned to safety that we stopped doing things we used to do and enjoy.

“I’ve noticed a big reduction in local walking safety.”

The Edmonton mom even took the drastic step of switching jobs so she could walk her kids to and from school.

“Even though we are less than two blocks away, I don’t feel it is safe enough for them to walk,” she said.

“Someone came at me personally to take my son’s bike, yelled at us just walking, lots of significant incidents that aren’t normal when you’re just walking around in your community. And it’s not easy for kids to handle on their own.”

Longtime downtown resident Kristy Lee. (CityNews)

A 34-year-old man’s death outside a convenience store on 107 Avenue on Friday was the latest fatal incident downtown. An autopsy Wednesday determined the victim died of a stab wound and that the manner of death was homicide, police say.

Homicide detectives arrested and charged a 23-year-old man with second-degree murder.

RELATED: Charge laid after autopsy determines victim was fatally stabbed downtown: EPS

The latest Edmonton Police Service data, released in April, show a growing rate of crime downtown, with an increase in calls and criminal incidents from 2021 to 2022.

Nunu Desalgne, a business owner in the area, fears she may need to permanently close her store because crime in the area is so frequent.

“Absolutely helpless, and hopeless,” she said. “That’s the way I describe it. And quite frankly, we are not the ones creating the problem either but we’re the only ones suffering from the problem.”

Desalgne called Friday’s fatal stabbing “very say to see” and “quite unacceptable.” But she’s hardly surprised.

“It’s just becoming much more frequent and it’s becoming more normalized, and again, that is not acceptable. This should not happen anywhere in the city.”

Edmonton police officers on the scene of a homicide at 107 Avenue 104 Street, Dec. 22, 2023. (CityNews)

The business owner feels many Edmontonians are too scared to shop in the area.

“We’re extremely hard-working people and we’re barely making a living because of all the stress the downtown area is causing,” she said. “I think enough is enough, fix it.

“I don’t want people to feel afraid to come here, but definitely it has been a struggle. People don’t necessarily feel comfortable to come out and support our businesses.”

She wants to see more resources from the government and city to make people feel safe again.

Downtown Edmonton business owner Nunu Desalgne. (CityNews)

Lee is also advocating for change. She and other parents in the area have been having conversations with all levels of government and the school, asking for better coordination of support in the area.

“I just continue to advocate with other local parents to get different levels of government aware, different levels of support in the City of Edmonton aware, that we do have a problem that we need to take more seriously in our area,” Lee said.

She feels a good first step to making the area safer for residents is creating a community space.

“Most places have something like a community hall, community league or a library that is walkable,” Lee said. “Where you can have kids do after-school programs. This particular walking area does not have that.”

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