Community resident James Thomas is very passionate about creating a healthy community through preventing crime.
But more than solving a crime or catching a criminal, he is interested in understanding what can be done to help the person committing a crime turn their life around.
“We talk of ways to reduce crime in our communities and I believe there are three distinct ways to do it,” said the 43 Division Community Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) Chair at the Toronto Police Service’s Crime Prevention Week launch on November 7 at Canadian Tire in Scarborough. “You catch the person committing the crime, you prevent the crime from taking place and then you prevent involvement in crime.”
Crimes, he said, take place in an environment where people are silent and minding their own business.
“That’s a hot bed for criminal activity,” he noted. “As community members we can work collectively to improve our communication network. There are many existing communication channels we can tap into, depending on how deeply you want to or can be involved. On one end of the spectrum, you can join our committee, the CPLC, and represent your neighbourhood at the local police division.
“Also, you can be informed and report suspicious activity you may notice. If you don’t have the time to become a committee member, connect with your neighbourhood CPLC representative, or connect the community groups you might already be involved with to your CPLC representative. When people are no longer silent, we reduce the size of the void where crimes take place.”
Staff Superintendent Randy Carter said Crime Prevention Week provides an opportunity for the Service and the community to join in partnership to celebrate the work they do together and talk about the issues that affect the health, safety and well-being of communities.
“We continue to work with our Community Consultative Committee and our Community Police Liaison Committees at the local level to understand and respond to the needs of those we serve,” he said. “We continue to enhance our Neighbourhood Community Officer (NCO) program to provide community-centric service delivery that is sustainable for the long term. We have expanded into 10 new City of Toronto neighbourhoods this past summer, three of which are here in Scarborough.”
Carter said Auxiliary officers will soon be deployed to work alongside the NCOs to deliver crime prevention programs and other initiatives.
“This model was developed through community collaboration and partnership,” added the senior officer. “Our Service makes crime prevention a priority when considering new strategies and initiatives which includes analyzing data to identify high crime areas to ensure that police are present where they are needed the most and public messaging through social media and traditional media which provides education for members of the public.”
Crime Prevention Week is marked each year by the Ministry of the Attorney General and Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police and by police services across the province.
Toronto Police Services Board member Lisa Kostakis said this year’s theme, ‘Safer. Stronger. Together.’ underscores the importance of using a collaborative approach through which the police and the community are engaged.
“We recognize that making crime prevention a priority is very much a shared responsibility,” she said. “Indeed, our continued modernization of the Toronto Police Service emphasizes the importance of collaboration, including the need to consistently listen to and consider the best interests of our communities, to support Service members to be the best partners, advisors and champions of working with neighbourhoods and to work collaboratively in partnership with others to develop sustainable solutions.”
Based on this important approach, Kostakis said the Board is extremely proud of the Service and the many excellent initiatives it has led.
She singled out the FOCUS tables as a great example of meaningful collaboration between the police and the community.
FOCUS is a shared partnership and collaborative approach, equally led by the Toronto Police Service (TPS), the City of Toronto and United Way Greater Toronto.
It’s a model built on the principles of collaboration and risk-driven response, moving the service system away from reactionary incident-driven responses requiring emergency services to preventative wrap-around responses that require the social service system.
“This also includes the Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams which pairs a specially trained police officer with a mental health nurse to provide people in crisis with a compassionate and collaborative response that connects people to the relevant and appropriate community and follow-up resources and services,” said Kostakis.
“We see this approach too in the recently expanded and extended collaboration with the Gerstein Crisis Centre that co-locates crisis workers in the 9-1-1 Communications to assist in the diversion of non-emergent, mental health-related calls away from a police response. And we see this when businesses such as Canadian Tire partner with the Service to demonstrate how local businesses play a role in crime prevention by offering solutions that can be incorporated into homes and businesses to prevent crime.”
Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police Director Joe Couto was the Master of Ceremony.
“It is exciting for us to see the men and women of Toronto Police Service here and see and understand the job that you do every single day.” he pointed out. “Crime prevention is not just a one-week thing. It is year-round. Focusing on crime prevention helps us to connect with our communities in a very special way.”