In the wake of a research study that found Neighbourhood Officers have increased residents’ feeling of safety in the communities they patrol, the program will expand across all 17 Divisions.
Dr. Janine Webber, of Humber College’s School of Social and Community Service, received $200,000 from the federal government to the Neighbourhood Officer Program over the next two years as part of a $2 million federal government plan funding 27 other programs.
Neighbourhood Officers are designated full-time to specific Toronto neighbourhoods to reach out to social agencies and community members to provide long-term solutions to crime problems in a community. The program began in 2013.
Webber’s initial study, a 2014 pilot project in eight Divisions, found that Neighbourhood Officers helped contribute to a feeling of safety and security, reduced residents’ fear of crime in the neighbourhood and reduced fear of gang violence.
“A key to effective policing is the quality of the relationship between police services and the community they work in… Researchers have repeatedly highlighted the interdependence between policing and community members,” said Webber.
She added that feedback from the community can help improve the program.
Chief Mark Saunders said working with Humber College students on this research is mutually beneficial.
These partnerships allow us to gain fair and impartial feedback on our community initiatives
"These partnerships allow us to gain fair and impartial feedback on our community initiatives," he said. "Not only do the students benefit, but their experience, insight and advice provide us with the ability to develop programs that will serve our community and help us protect the city of Toronto."
Deputy Chief Jim Ramer said the study is a first.
“It is meant to incorporate a model of neighbourhood policing focusing on providing a proactive policing model in neighbourhoods identified as requiring heightened police presence,” he said, at the announcement of the funding at Humber College. “This will be the first study in Canada on Neighbourhood Policing teams that will be evidence-based. Minister of Science Dr. Kristy Duncan said the funding would help achieve goals to reduce crime and increase public trust.
“Webber’s team hopes to develop ways to improve community policing, especially with non-English-speaking citizens. These new approaches and techniques can be shared with communities across Canada,” said the Minister.
“This really is an example of the kind of social innovation the government wants to support and fund.”