Relations between the public and their police are often strained these days — which has made finding a way to defuse tension and build trust a high priority for communities across Canada. Once an effort has been made, however, it’s important to ask if what’s being done is working.
That’s why Humber College and the Toronto Police Service are collaborating on an evaluation of the Neighbourhood Policing Program introduced in May 2013. Its goals were to reduce crime and increase the public’s safety and its trust in police. Through the program, special teams of Toronto police officers were assigned to some of Toronto’s more troubled neighbourhoods. The teams weren’t just beefing up street patrols — they were out, meeting people and groups, talking about issues in the community, trying, where possible, to prevent crime.
Preliminary results suggest neighbourhood policing is making positive changes; completed results are expected in 2018. However, while the thorough evaluation of the impact of program will take some time yet, this policing-academic collaboration is providing training opportunities for students. The research team from the School of Social and Community Services is conducting surveys and focus groups with adults and youth in the communities with neighbourhood police teams. Students from several programs are gaining valuable experience in facilitating focus groups, doing surveys and analyzing data.
The project will also contribute to a tool kit for other police services that want to know what public-engagement strategies might be effective, and may strengthen the relationship between the Toronto police and the public by singling out the most effective strategies for good police and public interaction.