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Focusing On Children, Youth And Families Will Make Edmonton Safer
September 16, 2009
Designating schools as neighbourhood hubs for after-hours youth programming, ensuring support and intervention services are available 24-7 for at-risk individuals and creating a coordinating body to lead a community approach to safety are just some of the nine recommendations included in a report released today by the Edmonton Taskforce on Community Safety.The Taskforce was asked last fall to present City Council with a set of recommendations on how to prevent crime and how to make Edmonton a safer community by addressing problems before they escalate into criminal activity.
“These recommendations will help us address the root causes of crime and ensure at-risk individuals get the support they need so they don’t resort to crime,” said Taskforce co-chair Fred Rayner. “By investing in crime prevention, we’ll realize a substantial shift in one generation towards an Edmonton where its citizens feel safe, but most importantly, where they are safe.”
“We heard loud and clear that we need to better coordinate prevention, social services and enforcement,” said Taskforce co-chair Lindsey Kelly. “These recommendations will bring a shift towards crime prevention and result in stronger families and neighbourhoods.”
The recommendations of the 25-member Taskforce were compiled into the REACH report which culminates a set of evidence-based, measurable, and prevention-focused community safety recommendations.
“Today we have a solid plan to make Edmonton a safer community,” said Edmonton Mayor, Stephen Mandel. “It’s not about correctional facilities or law-courts-justice or finding better ways to clamp-down on crime after it’s committed. It’s about creative and effective programs and strategies that can help prevent crime before it even happens.”
The Taskforce recommendations were the result of consultations with more than 500 Edmontonians and more than 45 community groups, including front-line workers, the business community, at-risk and high-risk youth, Aboriginals, immigrants, refugees, families, the public sector, and both victims and perpetrators.
Specifically, the Taskforce calls for:
• A new model of family and community safety focusing on schools as hubs
• A turn away from gangs initiative focused on at-risk youth
• Community coordination on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder(FASD)
• A 24-7 service delivery model for high-needs individuals
• Cultural community groups
• Neighbourhood organizing initiatives
• A new community safety coordinating council to integrate sustainable community safety efforts
• A sustainable strategy for prevention
• An innovative evaluation framework to measure success by using the social return on investment model
“There is no one who believes more in the power of prevention than a police officer,” said Edmonton Police Chief, Mike Boyd. “We know that both prevention and enforcement can co-exist and complement one another. These recommendations will help address the root causes of crime because they are the next evolution of preventative work already happening in our city – but with greater focus on coordination, sustainability, and helping get children and youth on the right path before it’s too late. We need to invest in both.”
The cost of crime in Alberta is $5 billion annually, but investments in preventative solutions can return anywhere from $4 to $20 in savings for every one dollar spent, according to Dr. Irvin Waller, a criminologist and head of the Institute for the Prevention of Crime at the University of Ottawa. The Taskforce found that investing in social and intervention programs, even if they are not directly related to crime reduction, can dramatically reduce the cost of crime because they contribute to community safety when it is needed most.
The Taskforce’s recommendations will be implemented by the Community Safety Coordinating Council which will be established in mid-2010. An interim board will bridge the transition between the Taskforce and the Council. The board will seek out multiple sources of funding for the implementation of the recommendations; finalize the Coordinating Council’s governance and resource requirements; and establish the Coordinating Council. The Coordinating Council will be independent from government and will be made up of community members representing social service agencies, government, education and not-for-profits.
“A key task for the interim board will be to shift Edmontonians from asking ‘what can be done?’ to instead asking ‘what can I do’,” said Kelly. “We need to make a cultural and behavioural shift so every Edmontonian takes a shared accountability to one another, to the community, and to future generations to make sure our city is safe.”
The Edmonton Taskforce on Community Safety was created in September 2008 by Edmonton City Council. It brought community leaders from business, government and community groups to look at what could be done to help make Edmonton a safer city with a focus on crime prevention. The full report is available REACH Report.
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