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May 27, 2005

Paying attention to crime prevention

In an article I wrote in March 2004 looking at the history of crime prevention (Heritage Perspectives No. 172) I mentioned a proposed crime prevention conference in the area. The Chisholm Community Policing Committee did acquire funding and a three-day conference co-hosted by the OPP was held at Nipissing University May 13 to 15. Community Policing is a progressive concept that supports police by forming community committees to become the eyes and ears of the community and carryout educational and preventative activities in cooperation with the OPP.

Community policing

Community policing is an active part of Ontario Provincial Police policy and there are dozens of committees throughout the province. These committees have a direct connection with the OPP and have officers on the committee to provide a direct link with the OPP. A wide variety of activities are carried out on a pro-active basis to prevent crime, victimization and fear of crime. The committees also react to potential or real criminal activity through direct contact with the OPP resulting in reduced crime statistics. Committee members always remain at arms length to any enforcement.

Chisholm Township where I live, has had a community policing committee, that I am a member o,f for 12 years. Among other things the committee has developed a Rural Watch Program, which like Neighbourhood Watch provides signage and other resources to warn off offenders and provide community support.It has spread into other rural communities in the north.

Because of the huge cost of crime on society through victimization, policing, justice system and the correctional system, the federal government has made extensive funding available in such programs as Building Safer Communities (BSC). The BSC approach is based on the development of models that change society at the grassroots level to prevent crime.

With the Building Safer Communities model so similar in philosophy to the Chisholm committee philosophy, we applied for a grant to promulgate this point of view in a community policing conference for Northeastern Ontario. The aim was to present the best thinking on issues related to youth, seniors, aboriginals and crime prevention in general.

Registration table at conference.

North Bay conference

The title chosen for the North Bay conference was Community Mobilization for Crime Prevention. The goal was to have some 150 delegates acquire advanced knowledge and skill for crime prevention in their local communities. Working closely with the OPP, top professionals like Greg Brown, director of the criminal justice program at Nipissing University, were featured. Brown recently received the 2005 Chancellorís Award for Excellence in Teaching at th university.
He provided an inspiring opening session called the Long and Winding Road: Re-discovering the Roots of Community Policing in North America where he emphasized the early days in Ontario where policing was carried out in a practical and human way in each community by local people. He later did a workshop on evaluation for results a critical part of any program.
 
Dennis Mock, president of Nipissing and Barbara Taylor, president of Canadore brought opening remarks to the group emphasizing the uniqueness of the relationship between the two institutions.
Their program, which allows a student to get a relevant degree and move into the more practical Canadore criminal justice program and vice versa, is outstanding and significant. MP Anthony Rota and MPP Monique Smith, along with others dignitaries, brought greetings and support.

Dennis Murray, a specialist in rural life from Mansfield University in Pennsylvania spoke, on rural youth leadership development and community change in another plenary session. Nipissing and Mansfield are twinned on areas of mutual interest.Dr. Warnie Richardson and Dr. Hugh Russell also made presentations. There were also many breakaway workshops.

Chisholm Community policing

As co-host of the conference the Chisholm CPC did a plenary presentation on their 12-year history as an example of the work of a progressive committee. It was chaired by Chisholm committee chairwoman Bernadette Kerr, who was also co-chair of the conference along with Staff Sgt. Irving Sloss of the North East Region Community Policing Unit. Various members talked about different aspects of the Chisholm program. Several CPC projects like their community directory sign and their rural watch program have been adapted by other communities.
A question and answer period followed. One delegate from the community policing committee in Round Lake told how efforts to place rural watch signs on the highway were continuously rejected until the Minister of Transportation was contacted.
 

The signage was approved and legislation is in the process of change to officially allow these signs on roads throughout the province.

Workshops

Among the 16 workshops, some had an aboriginal component. Urban Aboriginal Challenges were discussed by Grand Council Chief John Beaucage, and the Union of Ontario Indians communications director Maurice Switzer. Phil Goulais, chief of Nipissing First Nations was present. Sgt. George Couchie, from Anishinabek Police Services spoke on healthy relationships. Stan Wesley from Bear Island led a two-part workshop on peer helping.

All of the workshops were well received and along with resource materials from speakers, various booths and the OPP specialized response units set up in the parking lot everyone went home with extensive knowledge resources to help mobilize their communities for crime prevention throughout Northeastern Ontario.

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