Supervisor, Community Safety, City of Edmonton
photo by Curtis Comeau
Why He’s Top 40: He’s on the ground floor of several community initiatives to reduce crime in the 118th Avenue area.
If you could change one thing about Edmonton, what would it be? “The changes that I would like to see in Edmonton are currently being realized. Core communities are becoming denser, transportation is improving and there’s a growing intolerance of poverty. There’s still a lot to be done, but I really think Edmonton is on the right track.”
A few years ago, Kris Andreychuk and an Edmonton Police Service constable were doing the rounds on 118th Avenue — one of the city’s more crime-ridden communities — when they saw a boy they recognized across the street walking suspiciously, as if he were hiding something beneath his jacket. After they crossed the street to chat, he revealed a shocking item.
“He had a machete in his jacket,” says Andreychuk, who was a social worker with the city’s Neighbourhood Empowerment Teams at the time. “It was alarming to see that a 12-year-old kid was carrying a machete on the avenue, but what was more concerning was the fact that he purchased it at a dollar store.”
After a door-to-door audit of the nearly 200 businesses on 118th Avenue revealed six were selling weapons and drug paraphernalia, Andreychuk made it clear to shop owners and residents that they had vested interests in keeping the community safe. The strategy worked: Six months later, only one store carried such dangerous materials, and the incident’s follow-up sowed the seeds the We Believe in 118 campaign, which is one of the reasons Andreychuk believes the avenue is safer today.
“It’s really become a symbol of the avenue and of the community coming together,” says Andreychuk, adding that, within two years of its formation, violent crime in a row of four-storey residential walk-ups in the area had dropped by 60 per cent. “Bigger than that, it’s gone on to take on promotion of local businesses, promotion of safety, façade improvements and a number of different things.”
Some of those initiatives include The Spoke, where kids busted for bicycle theft work in a community-run bike repair shop, and Eyes on the Alley, in which dumpsters were decorated to reduce illegal dumping and graffiti. While such efforts in high-risk neighbourhoods might be dangerous at worst or burnout-inducing at best, Andreychuk has instead welcomed the challenge.
“I deeply value the public service and I’m really passionate about problem-solving,” says Andreychuk. “There’s no better issue to apply that to than solving crime, so it’s really a thrilling position.”