Chief of Police Bob Rich – “Policing has gone through some major changes in the last 15 years”


NNLCRIMEbeatTHUNDER BAY – Crimebeat – Editorial – Making Thunder Bay a safer community is not going to come by adding more police officers to the staff of the Thunder Bay Police Service. It is not going to come by putting bars on all the windows in our city. Making Thunder Bay a safer community is going to happen when citizens in our city start becoming more involved in making our city a better place.

The truth of the matter is that the Thunder Bay Police Service, which has one of the highest rates of clearing cases, has an important role. That role will be one more of community engagement and crime prevention. Over the past decade in our city, crime numbers have remained fairly consistent. Across Canada, however crime numbers have dropped.

Looking across Canada, at communities where crime has dropped, one can see one very consistent change. In communities where the police change their approaches, engage more with the people and gain their increased respect, crime drops. Communities like Toronto, Chatham Kent, Guelph, and Abbotsford have all moved into social media and opened the doors with the public. Sault Ste. Marie has also started engaging the public online.

iconsIn Abbotsford, once the murder capital of Canada, a title Thunder Bay now holds, the Chief of Police Bob Rich states, “Policing has gone through some major changes in the last 15 years. We used to say that crime rates were set by social demographics and there was little a police department could do to actually make a difference. It was believed that things like employment rates, education levels or drug and alcohol abuse determined how safe a community would be. Although these issues can create significant challenges, it is our job to overcome them to make a community safe. As one police leader pointed out, a crime is not caused by social dysfunction; it is caused by a person, and he or she can be stopped. The APD is responsible for making Abbotsford safe. Each year we look at what needs to be fixed to make the community better. We then set measurable goals to deal with each issue. All of our staff are encouraged to try new ideas and strategies to meet those goals”.

With no disrespect meant to Thunder Bay Chief of Police J P Lesveque, his message to people in Thunder Bay is, “Each year we gather with friends and family to celebrate Christmas and the year gone bye. On behalf of the members of the Thunder Bay Police Service and the Police Services Board, we hope this will be a happy holiday season for you.”

On March 5th, 2012 for the Chief of Police to be hoping Thunder Bay residents have a “happy holiday season” is one of the most obvious demonstrations that the TBPS Executive still have not accepted that almost 80% of the people in our community are online. Reaching out to engage the people of Thunder Bay is a key component of moving forward on the issue of tackling crime. Crime prevention education online is one of the components that other services have adopted. Why not here in Thunder Bay?

A visit to the Internet sites of police services across North America is to witness that a changing of attitude has happened at the executive level across the continent. The Toronto Police Service, the leader in Canada in reaching out to the public is asking repeatedly on their website for the public to connect with them. In Thunder Bay that level of public engagement is completely missing.

It isn’t all that is needed, but moving online and reaching out to engage the population is a step that is needed in Thunder Bay. That our community appears to be retreating rather than engaging and advancing speaks volumes. The quiet cancellation of the CopsnKids website is a strong indication that our police executive seem less in tune with the community than they should be.

Moving into the modern era is something that isn’t easy for all police services. As Toronto Police Chief Blair states that “It is important to join a conversation that is taking place. We know we have to be a part of it. One of the hallmarks of effective policing is effective communications”.

Does this approach help? We don’t have to look very far to see how the results can be seen. In Sault Ste. Marie crime is down twenty per cent in recent times.

James Murray
Chief Content Officer

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