THUNDER BAY – Community leaders and citizens from across various sectors gathered today for the introduction of the Thunder Bay Crime Prevention Council. The Crime Prevention Council is currently being established at the direction of City Council. Its working mission will be to engage the community in the task of preventing crime, increasing safety and fostering the well-being of everyone in Thunder Bay.
“The Crime Prevention Council is an important step for Thunder Bay,” stated Mayor Lynn Peterson. “Our police do a good job and we need to support them but we need to go deeper and address the issues that drive crime. This is a community issue that requires a community response and the response from the community this morning was extremely positive”.
The message from the Mayor drew fire from candidate for Mayor Keith Hobbs who is calling on Mayor Peterson to apologize to the citizens of Thunder Bay. “At one minute before midnight and after denying publicly that crime was even an issue, she is asking voters to give her four more years to solve our crime problems. Mrs. Peterson, this community that you ignored for seven years deserves an apology,” stated Hobbs.
Hobbs states, “Dr. Waller said that in ten years, crime could have
“We are not a safe city, so the first step is to stabilize the city. Then we can start implementing preventative measures,” added Hobbs. “Many of the points raised this morning were first raised by the Police Association in 1997. We brought forward issues of alcohol and drug abuse, alcohol related mental illness, and high levels of violent crime. Seven years later, or six years ago we brought up the exact same issues again”.
“Last September we brought the same issues again along with a thirteen point plan to address the problems. Some of those solutions included a de-tox centre, treatment beds, and preventative crime measures and funding to address First Nations issues with youth and helping to settle them into the city,” stated Hobbs.
Frank Pullia, who is seeking to move from Councillor at Large to the Mayor’s office said, “The message from Dr. Waller is consistent with my findings from the front lines when I joined a police and paramedics patrol for an evening and night shift three times in the last year”.
“It was obvious from the type of calls coming in that the police are responding to other social factors, like substance abuse, drinking, homelessness, unemployment and family breakdown that lead to lack of parenting, and youth problems”.
Pullia added, “This is a broad-based community safety and wellness issue and a priority that requires the efforts of all social, legal and economic agencies including adequate funding from the Provincial and Federal governments for mental illness beds, treatment centers. and specialized resources for people in need”.
“What we are witnessing in Thunder Bay is happening in other cities as well. The presenter provided some evidence of what works well and the type of positive impact on the whole community to move aggressively towards prevention versus reaction. The difference is 1 to 7 dollars, and as Mayor I would set some realistic and practical goals that the Prevention Council would focus on, including investing in youth at risk programs especially Aboriginal youth who come to our city unprepared to deal with city life”.
“NAN Grand Chief Stan Beardy also spoke of the issues that the Aboriginal community faces when coming to our city from the reserves,” stated Pullia. “I have had a good relationship with the Grand Chief and other Chiefs over the years and can bring that strong collaboration forward in a fast and proactive way”.
The event’s keynote speaker, Dr. Irvin Waller with the University of Ottawa, shared practical and collaborative ways for cities to reduce crime, prevent victimization and foster sustained community safety. Dr. Waller is the author of the influential Less Law, More Order: The Truth about Reducing Crime and has advised the governments of more than 40 countries on ways to prevent crime and respect victims.
With the Institute for the Prevention of Crime at the University of Ottawa, he initiated the National Municipal Network on Community Safety and orchestrated the Action Briefs for Municipal Stakeholders in collaboration with 15 Canadian cities that provide a practical action plan to reduce crime by 50 per cent in our cities. Dr. Waller is the founding executive director of the International Centre for Prevention of Crime affiliated with the UN.
The message from Dr. Irvin Waller delivered at the launch of the Thunder Bay Crime Prevention Council was that crime prevention starts with community engagement. Keeping young people out of trouble as a first step is a means of saving money, and preventing crime.
It is likely a message that Peter Panetta has tried to deliver to City Council repeatedly. Panetta is the driving force behind the Underground Gym on Simpson Street. Panetta works with kids from the East End teaching them boxing, along with the discipline and self-control that go hand in hand with the sport.
The Boys and Girls Club, on Windsor and Junot Avenue South offers another venue that lets elementary and high school students have a safe place to go after school. Through its activities engaging young people into positive activities is a step forward.
Dr. Waller states that “Crime prevention encompasses a wide range of approaches, including those which:
- Promote the well-being of people and encourage pro-social behaviour through social, economic, health and educational measures, with a particular emphasis on children and youth, and focus on the risk and protective factors associated with crime and victimization (prevention through social development or social crime prevention);
- Change the conditions in neighbourhoods that influence offending, victimization and the insecurity that results from crime by building on the initiatives, expertise and commitment of community members (locally based crime prevention);
- Prevent the occurrence of crimes by reducing opportunities, increasing risks of being apprehended and minimizing benefits, including through environmental design, and by providing assistance and information to potential and actual victims” (situational crime prevention); (UN Guidelines for the Prevention of Crime, 2002)
The members of the Council will be recruited over the next few months and a program coordinator will be hired. The Council is expected to have its first meeting in mid-December.
The new Thunder Bay Crime Prevention Council will begin by conducting a crime and disorder audit to identify community problems and develop a comprehensive and dynamic Safety and Crime Prevention Plan to be implemented for the City of Thunder Bay.