New York's High Line — an eyesore that was turned into a tourist attraction by the locals.
New York's High Line — an eyesore that was turned into a tourist attraction by the locals.Courtesy Hotels.com

MAKICHUK: A day in Edmonton vs. A day in New York

I recently had lunch with a friend, who shared something from a unique perspective.

It was in the wake of a terrible tragedy in Calgary, involving a stabbing outside a southwest Calgary school. That, along with many other home invasions, stabbings, incidents on the city's LRT, open drug use and fast growing crime.

Even with the addition of new police officers, things seem to be getting worse. While that helps, it may not exactly be the answer.

This friend no longer lives in Canada, choosing instead tropical Costa Rica, where she said it is much safer (except for the snakes, cane toads, scorpions and spidey types — all of which reside down there).

Her story was fascinating. Yes, she said, stuff happens in Costa Rica, but it's usually drug related, and not random. She feels much safer down there.

Not long ago, she flew to Calgary, met a friend and they drove up to Edmonton to see a concert.

Before the show, they decided to do some shopping, stopping at a few stores, including one well-known department store. To her shock, as the automatic doors opened, two women brandishing knives were shoving out a cart full of items, hundreds of dollars worth.

They were in a hurry, a big hurry.

My friend had stumbled on a robbery in progress.

The staff of the store let them take the items without protest or pursuit. They just locked the doors behind them. They later told my friend, there's nothing they can do and police don't really care, either. Even if they report it.

So, they just let them go. The cost of doing business. A male getaway driver was waiting in the car, which likely had stolen plates.

My friend watched, still trembling from the ordeal, as they loaded tons of stuff into the trunk of the car. Then left at high speed.

Welcome to Edmonton, eh? The city of ...

A bad scene, but we in Calgary, my friends, are not much better, to be honest and we may be headed in that direction.

This seems to be a growing trend, a troubling trend. I personally would never ride on Calgary's LRT. I have no desire to be stabbed.

The mayor's total refusal to listen to Calgarians' concerns, on this and other issues, especially financial ones, is disconcerting.

Her head is in the climate change clouds, out of touch, out to lunch.

And so, let's go to New York City, The Big Apple.

My friend from Costa Rica recently flew there to see some plays and enjoy some restaurants and shopping.

All incredible experiences, if you've ever been. To her shock, again, cops everywhere. On horseback, walking the beat (unlike Calgary, where they like to stay in cars and fly in helicopters).

Not only that, but NYPD officers even act as goodwill ambassadors for visiting tourists. A police officer purposely walked up to my friend and asked if she needed directions, as she appeared a bit lost.

She was. And the officer helped her and offered some great info of places she should see.

Shocking. Just shocking. Imagine that! An officer being helpful and friendly. Walking the beat! Engaging with citizens! Heaven help us.

Then, to her amazement, she saw armies of cleaners, tackling sites all over the city, including subway stations. Places that normally smell like pee.

They cleaned and sanitized these places constantly, to the point where everywhere she went, she said, it was spotless.

No garbage either.

And, unlike Calgary, no open drug dealing, no drugged up young people (as you often see in Calgary,) laying on the ground, knocked out by Rhino Tranq or fentanyl.

As a result, she thoroughly enjoyed her visit to New York's Manhattan and vows to return again, to see and do more.

A terrific walking city, there is also the fabulous High Line, which was an above ground subway line, turned into a popular tourist attraction, which was fought by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, by the way.

But the locals won out. They kept it, improved it and now it's a shining star in New York's many tourist sites.

I realize that New York is not Edmonton, nor is it Calgary. It is something amazing, something special. Bigger in every respect.

And yeah, they have crime and scary neighborhoods.

But maybe it's time we wake up to the challenge and actually try to make things better by thinking outside the proverbial box, instead of just throwing money at things and pretending we're making things better.

It would be nice, if we had a mayor who wasn't a Nenshi clone. But we can't use that as an excuse because change often happens/starts from the ground up.

What we need is a Ralph Klein and that ain't gonna happen anytime soon. Someone who is pro-active and not more concerned about her latest hairdo.

That's how New York's High Line got started.

But getting back to crime and policing. I really think the Calgary Police Service, which is filled with great talented people, should become more engaging with the locals.

Not because we pay their salaries, and that kind of thing; there is no judgment here. But maybe it's a start.

Let's just say, I want them to, "like us."

You know, "like us." Get out of your cars, walk the beat. Get to know people.

This is not South Chicago.

I know you love your helicopters, your high-tech surveillance toys and hidden budgets (shhhh!!!!), and your massive support staff, which outnumber actual cops.

That's all cool. But maybe we can do better.

Maybe we can learn something from cities such as New York, who seem to know what they're doing.

Before we become an Edmonton, or worse.

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