Police commission notebook: New downtown beats, HSOC details and ghost guns

The Edmonton Police Commission held their monthly public meeting this Thursday. Details dribbled out about the Healthy Streets Operations Centre, new downtown beats were drawn up because of its establishment, and the chief warned the public about an increase in the prevalence of ‘ghost guns’. 

Healthy Streets Operations Centre details

The Edmonton Police Service secured the funding for its Healthy Streets Operation Centre, or HSOC, in 2022, during the furor following the alleged murder of two Chinatown residents by a man named Justin Bone. EPS Chief Dale McFee argued that more policing was required to suppress violent crime in the area. It was later revealed that Bone was from out of town—unceremoniously dumped in Edmonton's west end by RCMP from Alberta Beach, with both the RCMP and EPS knowing that Bone was experiencing a mental health crisis and had been threatening violence against others—but that information was revealed only after the police got their multi-million dollar deal.

EPS has tasked Superintendent Derek McIntyre with operationalizing the new police station, which the police force claims is meant to integrate other municipal services into police tasks. McIntyre is a former member of the tactical team who was charged with assault causing bodily harm following the 2001 arrest of a halfway house resident. The charges were dismissed due to a mistrial. McIntyre was also named in a civil lawsuit for allegations of a breach of charter rights, assault, and other misconduct during an on-duty incident in 2007 according to the Alberta Police Misconduct Database. 

Chief McFee and EPS spokespeople describe the HSOC as the next evolution of the whole beat concept, “beats 2.0.” The Healthy Streets Operation Centre is currently housed in Century Place, a former office space for municipal workers located across the street from the Art Gallery of Alberta by Churchill Square. A recently released report doesn’t mention social workers as being part of the HSOC but does say that Edmonton Fire Department participation is anticipated in 2023. 

The dimensions of the beat for the HSOC were also partially revealed and include a chunk of real estate north of Chinatown including the Royal Alex Hospital, Kingsway Mall and territory northwest of that area. 

Image of new downtown EPS beats from police commission report on rezoning downtown beat boundaries

New downtown beats

EPS is reorganizing their downtown beats as they say that they don't want to have beat divisions’ turf overlapping with HSOC territory. The Boyle Street, Centre, and McCauley/Quarters beats will be covered by the HSOC while Cromdale, Oliver and Jasper Avenue West will all be new beats created by the EPS. 

Success will be measured by the number of calls for service and feedback from the community. The beats were chosen by the amount of reported crime within those geographic areas. 

Ghost guns and increased police academy sizes because of increased attrition

In the scrum after the police commission meeting, a scrum where I was told by a communication flak that the chief would not be taking my questions, McFee mentioned that the EPS will be increasing the sizes of their police academy intakes from 30 to 40, largely because of increased attrition.

In his oral report to the commission McFee also raised the issue of ‘ghost guns,’ which he says are becoming more and more common.

‘Ghost guns’ are almost like pirating firearms: using schematics available online, 3d printing, and simple machine shops, illicit gunsmiths are building new guns that have no serial numbers and are extremely difficult to trace.  

Chief Dale McFee scrumming with the media after the February 16, 2023 Edmonton Police Commission meeting.