When Torontonians get together with the officers who serve them, to work on community safety issues, good things happen. But it’s not often that the meeting results in saving a life.
A group of Etobicoke Lakeshore residents saw the power of working with police, firsthand, by participating in theWalk the Beatprogram that allows citizens to meet up with officers in their community to take a walk and discuss areas and issues of concern.
“One of the women we were with had mentioned to police that there was a lot of public drinking in a park near where she resides,” said local resident Jeremy Sale, who joined in the walk alongside officers on February 27. “As she steered the group towards that park, we noticed a man who was trapped and clearly confused, injured and intoxicated,” said Sale, who said the man was near the bottom of the rocks, by the lake. “He was not well-equipped for the cold weather and could have died of hypothermia.”
Sergeant Jeff Alderdice attributes the rescue to the new program.
“The citizens in that community demonstrated, in the inaugural walk, that they are invested in community wellbeing and are part of the solution to quality-of-life issues,” he said. “If it wasn’t for this program, we wouldn’t have been there and that man might not be alive today. That’s positive proof thatWalk the Beat has already paid dividends.”
Sale said residents can’t assume the police are aware of all community safety issues and should voice their concerns.
Alderdice developed theWalk the Beat program that allows officers to meet citizens at a predetermined area.
“During the meeting, residents let us know about some of the problems that are affecting their quality of life,” said Alderdice. “Officers then walk with residents and patrol the problem spots. This is a great grassroots-level exchange of information and facilitates great community engagement.”
Sale commended Alderdice for his flexibility and leadership in putting the program together.
“This was a very useful exercise,” he pointed out. “It’s important for residents to see the faces of officers and remind themselves that the police are there. Our concerns are the concerns of the police and, sometimes, we assume, they know what’s happening or are reading our minds.”
Alderdice said the program was 22 Division’s response to Chief Mark Saunders’ mandate that the Service’s 17 Divisions enhance their levels of community engagement.
Each Community Response Unit officer is assigned to a neighbourhood.
“They will contact the residents’ associations to determine when the next walk will be held,” Alderdice said.
In the meantime, 22 Division officers will be presenting valuable home security information at a seminar on March 10 at The Church on the Queensway (1536 The Queensway). The event starts at 7 p.m.
“Our officers will show residents what they can do, both high- and low-tech, to ensure that they minimize the risk of becoming the victim of a break-and-enter,” said Alderdice.