Crime and road quality top issues for region: survey

Tracey Vavrek, CEO of the Community Foundation of Northwestern Alberta, speaks on the 2019 Vital Signs report at Centre 2000 in Grande Prairie, Alta. on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019. Peter Shokeir / Daily Herald-Tribune

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Crime and quality of roads were two common issues for citizens in northwestern Alberta, according to the Vital Signs Engagement Survey for 2019.

The Community Foundation of Northwestern Alberta launched its fifth full edition of Northwestern Alberta’s Vital Signs on Tuesday. The report assesses the quality of life in Grande Prairie, the county, the Municipal District of Greenview and the surrounding communities.

“It’s really exciting to see the areas we’re improving on in our community, being able to measure and see the results of—for example—our Housing First program but also as well to be able to identify areas that we need to work stronger together around, to improve and to make change,” said Tracey Vavrek, CEO of the Community Foundation.

The report includes an electronic survey, which received input from 2,138 citizen respondents. Along with crime and road quality, pressing issues for respondents included cost of living, mental health, wait-times for physicians and poverty/homelessness.

“It continues to be a conversation that is a concern for our local citizens and we also see the statistics are mirroring the concerns of our local citizens,” Vavrek said regarding crime.

Comparing 2017 to 2018, the city’s rate of motor vehicle theft increased 35.6 per cent, while the rate for the county and northwest Greenview went up by 21.7 per cent. The sex assault rate rose 36.5 per cent for the city but went down 70.5 per cent for the county and northwest Greenview.

In first two quarters of 2019, Grande Prairie ranked highest among Alberta cities for rate of death by opioid poisoning.

The report also highlighted positive statistics, such as for the city’s Housing First programs. Clients who have been housed for six months show a 73 per cent reduction in use of medical services, a 77 per cent reduction in emergency room visits and a 92 per cent reduction in police interactions.

In addition, Grande Prairie-Wapiti had the highest voter turnout in the province in the 2019 election at about 80.2 per cent, while the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie and the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum broke attendance records in 2019 with special exhibits and events.

New additions to the Vital Signs report include the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and data on cannabis.

Regarding cannabis, Canadians are obtaining more from legal sources and less from illegal, while the number of seniors reporting cannabis use increased slightly.

“It’s just been legalized over the last year so the data’s fresh,” Vavrek said.

“Once we’re able to start reviewing that data further, we’ll be able to dive into it more.”