Harnessing the Evidence – Harnessing what Works

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On Saturday, September 11, 2010, Safe City Mississauga and University of Toronto Mississauga hosted our first Crime Prevention Conference. An integrated and shared vision of how local action can help to create safer cities began in October 1989, twenty years ago, when the first European and North American conference on Urban Safety and the Prevention of Crime was held in Montreal. Investing smartly in the safety for the City of Mississauga requires a sound and effective model to guide crime reduction through a systematic planning and implementation process that will ensure that we address problems in an effective manner.

Safe City Mississauga was formed to contribute to the reduction of criminal opportunity and criminal victimization in the community of Mississauga by:

(a) Providing resources, staff assistance, professional community leadership and guidance for crime prevention programs such as Neighbourhood Watch, Crossroads Youth Academy, Counter-Act and Aspire;

(b) Providing support and guidance for crime prevention activities by all Peel Regional Police Liaison Committees, other organizations, corporations and individuals;

(c) Providing a communication network for the exchange of ideas and information among Safe City Mississauga and community members;

(d) Encouraging crime prevention education within the public, private and voluntary sectors;

(e) Researching, developing and implementing new community crime prevention programs and activities; and

(f) Providing a liaison with other crime prevention organizations and practitioners for the exchange of ideas and information beneficial to reducing crime.

Safe City Mississauga, from a strategic context, acknowledges that crime prevention requires those living in a society to be aware of individual responsibility in reducing crime.  Safe City Mississauga identified that a Community Crime Prevention Action Plan for the City of Mississauga needs to be developed and requires collaborative and problem-solving relationships in order to effectively engage and mobilize the community to reduce crime and improve community safety. Using a business case guide, the Community Crime Prevention Conference proved to be the most highly effective way to address key factors of the Community Crime Prevention Action Plan as it engaged the public and practitioners as well as created an effective collaboration between municipal, regional, provincial and federal representatives.

The desired outcomes were to use an effective communications strategy to:

  • Understand the impact of crime and public insecurity on the economic and social development of the City
  • Review proven crime prevention models and initiatives
  • Understand how crime prevention initiatives are measured/evaluated
  • Receive participant feedback and mobilization for community safety surveys
  • Develop effective collaboration of partnerships with a common crime prevention interest
  • Incorporate outcomes to guide the local safety audit, community safety diagnosis, corrective process development/policy, and evaluations to reduce crime

Our identified drivers for change include increase efficiency, effectiveness and quality of programs through local community engagement and mobilization in the development of comprehensive community safety planning to identify and tackle the situations that put youth, families, neighbourhoods, schools and businesses at risk of crime and victimization. This would require a Society Driver, to improve partner collaboration of services including housing, social services, recreation, policing and public health to intervene early in the lives of high-risk families and children, improving conditions in disadvantaged areas and focusing on the conditions that breed crime are highly effective in reducing crime and improving community safety. This would also require an Academic Driver, to improve partner collaboration of research including impact analysis on demographics and socio-economic variables, crime mapping, and program evaluation methods, etc. University of Toronto Mississauga is the premier university serving the residents of Mississauga and since crime prevention and reduction is a combination of social, economic, and geographical factors it placed UTM in the best position to provide a myriad of professional academic research and analysis to support the Community Crime Prevention Conference and subsequently, the citywide Crime Prevention Action Plan.

At the conference, Dr. Hargurdeep (Deep) Saini, an experienced administrator, researcher and teacher currently serving as the Principal of University of Toronto Mississauga and Vice-President of the University of Toronto, where he is also a Professor of Biology welcomed the registrants and shared some of his own personal thoughts as to the importance of crime prevention. Much of the conference success was due to the dedication and enthusiasm of UT Mississauga administrator, Mr. Paul Donahue, Professor Dana Wilson and Campus Police Chief Len Paris. The conference attracted people interested in community crime prevention contributing to their readiness to be engaged and mobilized. We will take the feedback from the registrants, speakers and stakeholders to create the attributes of a safe and secure community and identify factors that have a direct impact on feelings of insecurity and to create a safety and crime prevention profile for Mississauga that may be used by community partners to determine future priorities and to focus a collective effort. The main trend identified post conference was that there is a lot more to crime prevention than anyone imagined. Registrants asked for the conference to be extended “over a two day period”. It is true that this conference was packed with speakers and subsequently, information.

Dr. Irvin Waller, PhD, University of Ottawa is a Full Professor of Criminology at the University of Ottawa and Vice-President of the International Organization for Victim Assistance. He continues to advise national and local governments across the world and talk to concerned citizens and taxpayers. He has 40 years of prize winning work in government, with governments and outside governments to prevent crime, reduce the over-reliance on cops, courts and corrections, and empower victims. He was President of the World Society of Victimology, founding CEO of the International Centre for Prevention of Crime affiliated with the United Nations, and founding CEO of the Institute for Crime Prevention at Ottawa University. His contributions have been recognized by governments in Europe and North America as well as international non-governmental organizations. Reducing Crime, already in paperback in English, French and Spanish, with Chinese and German versions to appear this year. His visionary views on how governments can prevent violence but not through more police and prisons are not just being listened to, but adopted by governments who mean business. This internationally renowned author is working on a He is the author of Less Law, More Order: The Truth about sequel on crime victim rights to empower voters to get politicians to change the way justice is administered from more punishment to more respect, truth and safety.

Christine Sadeler, Executive Director of Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council discussed Crime Prevention Strategy. Crime Prevention is often been regarded as the mandate of provincial, territorial and federal governments. Municipalities and communities around the country beg to differ. While there are immediate and obvious roles for provinces, territories and the government of Canada, the capacity of communities to prevent and reduce crime, victimization and fear of crime is not to be underestimated and in fact should be actively supported and harnessed. Christiane will speak about the strategic efforts in Waterloo Region that since the inception of the WR Crime Prevention Council have contributed to Waterloo Region being one of the safest communities in Canada. Long term, focused and based planning and action can significantly impact public safety and security as one of the key quality of life measures affecting municipalities.

Nicola Epprecht, Regional Director, National Crime Prevention Centre talk reviewed some of the model and promising crime prevention projects currently being implemented across Canada with NCPC’s support, as well as discussed the evaluation plans for these projects. The NCPS is based on the premise that well-designed interventions can have a positive influence on behaviours; crimes can be reduced or prevented by addressing risk factors that can lead to offending. Successful interventions have been shown to reduce not only victimization, but also the social and economic costs that result from criminal activities and the costs related to processing cases in the criminal justice system.

Surrinder Aujla, Public Prosecution Service of Canada discussed what government officials, school board trustees, law enforcement officers, social service workers and others working to reduce and prevent crime at the local level should know from a federal level. Which federal laws are most prevalent at the municipal level (what is occurring locally and trialed at the federal level) and what are the sentencing for such crimes and why. Mr. Aujla discussed how federal crime data can support developing a comprehensive crime prevention and crime reduction initiatives when integrated into local policy and practice.

Dr. Dax Urbszat, PhD, UTM, Asst. Professor in Psychology discussed Youth, Crime, and Mental Health Causes, Links and Solutions. Most individuals in law enforcement, politics, education, and research agree that Mental Health issues have an important impact on the creation and maintenance of criminal behaviour. This may be especially true for younger individuals dealing with mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. However, there has been less emphasis placed on programs that have thoughtfully considered the interactive effects of mental health issues on criminal behaviour in youth populations. This talk will try to demonstrate the links between mental health issues and criminal and anti-social behaviour in young offenders and offer some suggestions for ways to proceed in the future that will help address this serious threat to community safety and crime prevention.

Len Paris, Manager Campus Police Services, University of Toronto Mississauga discussed Campus Police officers operate under a very difficult mandate of providing safety and security in institutions that are expected to be very open and encourages freedom of expression and movement. The campus environment also involves a high degree of collaboration and partnerships in solving community issues and problems. The Campus Police department operates on the philosophy that campus safety, security and crime prevention is a responsibility of all members of the community. This talk will look at the types and quality of community partnerships and community involvement that promotes a healthy and caring community. This talk will focus on how to involve students, staff and faculty in campus safety and crime prevention programs. It will also examine the importance of good communication and resolution strategies with stakeholders including local police.

Dana Helene Wilson, PhD, University of Toronto Mississauga, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography – Co-Presenter, Mark Saltmarsh, Crown Attorney, Region of Peel discussed the Exploration of the Social Determinants of Crime in the Region of Peel. Inequalities in income, education and housing are strong predictors of both the rates of crime in a community and other aspects of community health and wellbeing. This talk focuses on recent geographic research that explores the social determinants of crime phenomena throughout the Region of Peel. Patterns of crime, demographic characteristics and socio-economic conditions are assessed to better understand factors in the local social environment that may make certain places and subpopulations more vulnerable to criminal involvement. Implications of results are discussed relation to local initiatives that may work simultaneously to reduce crime and promote community health, particularly among vulnerable groups like youth. The talk will conclude by outlining future research directions that rely on interdisciplinary approaches and geographical techniques to improve our understanding of the social determinants of crime through greater attention to the role of the social environment.

Constable Tom McKay, Peel Regional Police asked and discussed Does the Safest City in Canada have a recipe for success? While it is generally accepted that Mississauga is the safest city of its size in Canada, few people can answer the question why. This presentation looked at some of the factors that have contributed to this success and what we need to do in order to maintain our status.

Alison Weir, PhD, University of Toronto Mississauga, Professor, Department of Mathematical and Computational Science, presented the Safest City Report in the format of Estimating the Impact of Demographics and Socio-Economic Variables on Canadian Crime Severity Indices.

At the first year conference, the idea was to pepper the registrants with as much exposure to various aspects of crime prevention as possible. Then, in subsequent years, begin offering specialized tracks. It was also meant to expose the registrants to the necessity of statistical analysis, evaluation methodologies, hence the conference theme, “harnessing the evidence – harnessing what works”. What we found was a resounding echo of the registrants was the conference was data packed but I want more time to get the full comprehension. That was encouraging! We will be presenting topic areas into a more manageable stream in 2011 and offering the opportunity to select tracks, i.e., social worker, law enforcement or by topic areas, i.e., community crime prevention track, a youth track, a practitioner track, and various other ideas are being discussed based on the registrant comments.

OUTCOMES ANALYSIS

We would like for the registrants to know that we are taking into consideration all of your comments as we plan for 2011 and look forward to again serving our community, city, region, province and country with the help you provided through the surveys.

Outcome analysis was as follows:

1. This conference has provided an avenue and opportunity for sharing community practice knowledge.
18.2% Strongly Agreed
72.7% Agreed
6.1% Uncertain
3% Disagreed

2. This conference has provided direction for moving community practice knowledge into policy and practice.
9.2% Strongly Agreed
60% Agreed
21.5% Uncertain
9.2% Disagreed

3. This conference has provided me with a thorough review of how public insecurity impacts the economic development of Mississauga.
4.6% Strongly Agreed
53.8% Agreed
24.6% Uncertain
15.4% Disagreed

4. This conference has provided me with a thorough review of how public insecurity impacts the social development of Mississauga.
4.8% Strongly Agreed
61.9% Agreed
27% Uncertain
6.3% Disagreed

5. This conference has provided me with a review of proven crime prevention models and initiatives?
20.3% Strongly Agreed
63.5% Agreed
12.2% Uncertain
4% Disagreed

6. This conference has provided me with a thorough understanding of how crime prevention initiatives are measured.
13.5% Strongly Agreed
62.2% Agreed
17.6% Uncertain
6.8% Disagreed

7. This conference has provided me with the opportunity to network and form partnerships with crime prevention organizations.
18.5% Strongly Agreed
52.3% Agreed
16.9% Uncertain
9.2% Disagreed

Based on the outcome analysis, the conference stakeholders, host, presenters, organizers, volunteers and sponsors can rest assure that the conference is a positive investment as the principal way to raise awareness of the individual commitment required to prevent and reduce crime and find the tools available to support the communities, broadly defined to include groups of people, neighbourhoods, similar interest like business groups, or around a particular activity, like sports. We will continue to track these and other identified outcomes added in the subsequent years.

It’s a Community funded Event. Registrants purchased tickets at $125 which proved to be a fair price point for a one day conference. Rogers provided multiple segments leading up to the conference to inspire and promote discussion about the conference and its purpose. They are also providing segments of this year’s conference into their programming to air prior to next year’s conference. We are also fortunate to have the body of knowledge from the annual conference supported by Vantage Publishing in the Crimesense magazine and with a monetary contribution as a Diamond sponsor. And finally, due to the founding sponsor level of monetary contribution from BELL, we will continue to recognize and promote public recognition appeal to actively engage individuals and organizations for making a significant contribution to preventing and/or reducing crime or improving community safety through the HERO awards.

Special “Thank You” to Mayor Hazel McCallion, Dr. Deep Saini, and Deputy Chief Dan McDonald from Peel Regional Police for bringing opening welcome remarks and we look forward to seeing you at the 2011 Crime Prevention Conference on Friday, November 4th, 2011 to be held at the University of Toronto, Mississauga.

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