A few days after Kevin Reddick was fatally shot in Parma Court in North York last August, nearly 100 residents turned up at a town hall meeting with Toronto Police to express concerns about the rising violence plaguing the neighbourhood.
There were three homicides in the community last year, which remain unsolved.
“The community was really upset about what was happening where they live and I made them a promise that I will get more resources in here,” recalled Supt. Reuben Stroble.
The 55 Division Unit Commander kept his pledge, delivering four new Neighbourhood Community Officers (NCOs) were introduced to Parkview-O’Connor neighbourhood on February 24 at the O’Connor Community Centre.
“Through crime analysis, we have the numbers that support an intervention as far getting these officers invested in this neighbourhood,” said Stroble. “Today, is a celebration of that promise I made last August.
Beaches-East York councillor Brad Bradford attended the meeting.
“Any opportunity that we have to connect the community with our police to build that trust and those relationships, we get better outcomes,” he said. “The community feels safer. A lot of challenges we are struggling with in different parts of the city are systemic issues. The way we break those down is by recognizing that we need to do things differently and this program is a direct response to the feedback that Toronto Police has received over the years. Neighbourhoods have been clamouring for this investment and it means a lot to me to have Supt. Stroble and his officers at 55 Division put together the team to deliver for the community. This has been a neighbourhood of need.”
It is a good thing to have an enhanced police presence here so that the community can feel safe
Bradford thanked community members for stepping up and being part of a constructive, productive community-led initiative for change in their neighbourhood.
“Tonight is about you the community,” he added. “It is about our response to some of the challenges facing this neighbourhood. It is about moving forward.”
Lyndon Jost, who has lived in the neighbourhood with his family since 2013, welcomed the new initiative.
“There has been a lot of difficult situations that youths have been involved in and a lot of the people here feel unsafe,” he said. “It is a good thing to have an enhanced police presence here so that the community can feel safe.”
The new Neighbourhood Community officers are Consts. Alex Dreglia, William Tippett, Dave Besco and Chris Black.
A member of the Service for the past decade, Black has seen first-hand the benefits of having officers invested in communities.
For the last two years, he has coordinated the ProAction Cops & Kids Hockey League for young people in the Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park area.
“Getting to know a lot of the young people and their families have helped us to build bridges with the community,” said Black. “They see me as Chris and not Officer Black and I am always welcomed when they see me. There is also a trust factor that has emerged and that’s huge in helping us with the work we do in trying to maintain safety. I believe in the Neighbourhood Community Officer program, I believe in serving the community and that’s why I put my hands up to be part of this program in Parma Court.”
Dreglia is delighted to be embedded in the community.
“Responding to calls, you come and go,” he said. “I know this community well because I have been responding to calls here for 10 years. This is a neighbourhood that needs attention and I am happy to be part of that group giving it the care it deserves.”
With funding from ProAction, an organization helps links youth and police through sports, arts and other programs, Dreglia has implemented two youth-focused programs.
Designed to help them overcome obstables, Project ‘O’ is summer fitness program for youth.
“It will be once a week after-school program on Thursday afternoons at Stan Waddle Park,” he said. “I am also in the process of putting together a Tuesday afternoon soccer program.”
S/Sgt. James Hung of 55 Division Community Response Unit spearheaded the team that put together the NCO program proposal for O’Connor-Parkview.
“Ensuring the best customer service to the community of O’Connor-Parkview necessitates changing from a traditional policing model to a community-focused approach with wrap around services for the most challenged members,” he said. “Building the bridges within this community will see a neighbourhood that’s experiencing a high rate of criminality, drug use, overdoses, assaults, shootings as well as three homicides receive heightened attention and support.”
Teams of two officers will cover the neighbourhood 11 hours daily. They will be supported by Toronto Community Housing Neighbourhood officers.
This is the fourth NCO program to be implemented in the Division following Flemingdon Park, Riverside and Blake-Jones.
NCOs work in partnership with local residents and community-based organizations to address crime, disorder and community safety issues.
They are embedded in one neighbourhood for at least four years to actively co-develop solutions and mobilize Toronto Police resources in order to reduce crime, fear of crime and anti-social behaviour.
Introduced in 2013 across the city, the program has evolved through community consultation and Humber College’s independent research to develop the best practices that were rolled out last year.