YK will add pedestrian safety to municipal enforcement priorities
The City of Yellowknife’s municipal enforcement officers will be asked to pay extra attention to pedestrians and intersection safety over the year ahead.
Other priorities, carried over from last year, include incorporating reconciliation into officers’ work, downtown visibility, and unauthorized parking, particularly along narrow streets where emergency vehicles could be blocked.
“Over the past year, multiple reports have been made to MED regarding pedestrian safety and MED officers have been dealing with more infractions related to intersection safety,” read a briefing note prepared for city councillors.
“MED plans to take a strategic approach to these issues by conducting enforcement operations and educational campaigns.”
Councillors met on Monday to review the proposed priorities for 2023-24.
“We’ve got a very dynamic bylaw enforcement division that’s been working very hard to take on a more ‘community policing’ role as opposed to hardcore enforcement,” said city manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett.
“They are working to be part of the community in a very constructive way.”
The focus for the year ahead is broadly identical to last year’s priority list, with a slight shift from speeding to intersection safety.
Downtown safety, a key issue this time last year, remains a concern.
“This year, MED plans on forming robust foot and bike patrol schedules, specifically focusing on the downtown core,” councillors were told in their briefing note.
“This will allow officers to have an increased, highly visible and approachable presence in the community.”
Councillor Ben Hendriksen said a lot of time intended to promote public safety would, under these priorities, be focused on “cars going too fast or not moving at all.”
“What can we be doing differently?” Hendriksen asked, in a broader sense, as councillors reviewed the proposed priorities. No councillors expressed any significant opposition.
“How can we think differently about designing our lived space,” Hendriksen continued, “so that MED can focus on bylaws other than hunks of cars, or hunks of metal, that are sitting in the way of emergency vehicles? Because that’s a lot of staff time.”
Similarly, Mayor Rebecca Alty suggested that city staff could look at design solutions that help residents comply with concerns at intersections or with parking on narrow streets, rather than using officer time.
“We’ll always be chasing our tail if we’re just trying to get the officers to catch people and hope that’ll change people’s future behaviour,” she said.
“Stuff like narrower streets or raised crosswalks can actually slow people down, and that’s that engineered solution that will help us reduce incidents.”
“We certainly are working on a lot of that,” said Bassi-Kellett, describing an approach that involves design standards.
“It’s iterative, and we’re catching up on a lot of things after a tumultuous start to 2023. So we appreciate your patience on that.”
Regarding reconciliation, the city says its officers have taken crisis intervention and de-escalation training and Living Well Together, the GNWT’s cultural awareness and sensitivity program.
The city says its MED patrol vehicle liveries were changed in part “to remove colonial symbols in support of reconciliation and visibility in the community.”
Bassi-Kellett said the city’s municipal enforcement manager and supervisor are now both Indigenous, adding that City Hall is in the process of beginning to more thoroughly track the demographic makeup of its workforce.
Municipal enforcement’s priorities for 2023-24 are expected to be formally confirmed at a council meeting on the evening of Tuesday, May 23.