November 16, 2022 at 12:16 am
Sarnia Police are keen to gather feedback from the community and incorporate it into strategies to build trust and reduce theft.
Police Chief Derek Davis holds meeting Tuesday Thursday’s Sarnia Police Service (SPS) Board Meeting, where a draft business plan for 2023-25 will be presented. The business plan was developed based on feedback received from residents through various open houses and an online survey.
Some of the conclusions drawn from this process were that the majority of respondents felt that their neighborhoods were less safe, and the number one reason people chose not to report crimes such as burglary or theft over the past three years was that they felt they would not anything happens.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Davis repeatedly referred to the personal impact on victims when petty crimes, such as bicycle theft, occur.
SPS recently ran a bike theft program where officers deployed and monitored unattended bikes for a total of 40 hours and stepped in after criminals had stolen bikes. During the surveillance project, 11 persons were arrested and 24 criminal charges were laid.
Various offender profiles relate to those with the long list of property-related charges previously listed by SPS.
However, a profile details a criminal with no criminal record who admitted to stealing the bike in order to sell it to satisfy their drug addiction.
“From a policing standpoint, if we can stop a person from going down a negative path, that’s a win for us. It means resources can go to other things and other places,” Davis said. “This is an example of moving forward, in terms of policing, we need to start looking at new opportunities and new ideas, start being able to look differently, more strategically at the way we manage criminals and the way we look at In some crime works.”
(The video was shown at Tuesday’s meeting as part of the Bike Theft Project.)
Councilor Adam Kilner was one of four councilors in attendance. He noted how the community has responded over the past few months, and how people have different experiences with policing in a more diverse city.
“I just want to see how things are going. I have my own thoughts on some of these things, but being open and transparent is always crucial — especially in an increasingly diverse community like Sarnia,” Kilner said . “I’m looking forward to a different paradigm because I think it’s clear to me anyway that we need to seek feedback from people who might be more hesitant to release it.”
Building community trust starts with dialogue, Davis said, and improving the way things are done takes more than hiring a few officers.
“From the top down, we are open to dialogue and we recognize that in some cases we may have to change the way we do business,” Davis said.
“We’ve got to start working together somewhere. What we’re asking here is, by 2023, what’s the next step that we can take? How do we move in the direction we want to go? That’s what’s in front of the board now , mainly through the business plan.”
The four key areas included in the plan are operations and community policing; community engagement and outreach; facilities, equipment and technology; and organizational capacity.
Proposals include mobile community outreach teams with partners to deal with individual issues in a “holistic approach”, expanding mental health engagement and response teams and increasing police numbers in communities.
One cost-saving way to make SPS more visible is to introduce assistive devices, a feature that most police departments already have, Davis said. Auxiliary units include citizen volunteers who are trained and will work alongside the police.
Assemblyman Anne Marie Gillis was encouraged by Sarnia’s new police chief’s efforts to “break the mold” of community policing.
“It’s not that ex-police chiefs didn’t do that, or ex-police agencies didn’t do that, it’s just that we live in a different dynamic and a different world,” Gillis said. “Chief Davis is from a different city, closer to the GTA, and he has a very different understanding of how to do things differently.”
The final version of the 2023-25 SPS Business Plan is expected to be returned to the Board in February 2023.