Neighbourhood officer program will bring citizens onboard to fight crime
Toronto plans to launch a pilot neighbourhood officer program this fall that aims to bridge the gap between police and its communities.
The six-month pilot project will begin in Toronto’s 11 in the city’s southwest area, in Scarborough’s 41 and 42 divisions and in Etobicoke’s 22 Division.
This program is intended to be much more robust than the community policing program.
“In this program you’re going to have officers assigned to your neighbourhoods for a number of years,” said Deputy Police Chief Peter Yuen. “They are there to build relationships, to build trust and they are going to be there as part of the community to work alongside the residences and businesses.”
The program is in response to the growing demands for officers to be involved in communities and understanding local issues. He told Humber News this program aims to reduce the gap between Toronto citizens and police.
The program will start with eight neighbourhoods in October and will eventually cover all neighbourhoods in Toronto. The officers involved in the program will be from the demographic that makes up the neighbourhood.
Through this project the officers will be involved in after-school events, thereby establishing a relationship of trust between the police and civilians. The officers have the autonomy to be a part of the social programs in the neighbourhood they are assigned to.
The residents will get to know them in a bid to establish trust between the them and police.
“Trust is an important factor in reducing any anti-social behaviour because we need the public’s participation helping us with information,” Yuen said. “Once we get the the trust of the community, they are going to give us the information that is going to make the neighbourhood safe.”
He said the officers will be accessible to the residents 24/7. Their main tasks involve problem-solving, resolving any conflicts in the community, and identify needs and if there are any barriers to fulfilling them.
Officers will also help neighbourhoods get funding for hosting programs along with their main duty to protect people from criminals, Yuen said.
Angela Wou, who lives in East York, welcomes the idea of having accessible cops in the neighbourhood.
“This initiative will change the stern image often associated with cops,” she said. “Having a cop who will be a part of my community definitely makes me feel safer. I think this is necessary because of the rising crime in Toronto.”
Wou expects this program to make neighbourhoods safer for residents and prevent hate crimes in the city. She looks forward to seeing more cooperation between law enforcement and citizens and hopes that this will be a strong step to prevent shootings and anti-social behaviour.