“Once your belief in the power of punishment to solve social problems is shaken, your whole politics will start shifting.” @l_melo_h on twitter.
For a number of years, the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council has seen the writing on the wall. This past year, they asked to no longer be an arms length organization of the Region of Waterloo.
A number of years ago, Police Chief Matt Torigian held a meeting to talk about this wonderful idea he had discovered out west. It was essentially another Crime Prevention Council. I remember standing up at the meeting and asking about this similarity. Over the years, police travelled to places around the world looking for ideas for crime prevention. They ignored the Crime Prevention Council in their backyard.
On January 26th, Regional Council approved a framework for the Community Safety and Wellbeing plan to much back patting and congratulation of those in the community who have been consulted. https://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/health-and-wellness/community-safety-and-wellbeing-plan.aspx
On March 31, 2022, the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council will be no more, the staff dismissed. Five years of funds will be given to Community Justice Initiatives as part of their new Justice hub initiative which will include the Crime Prevention Council, although there is no way of knowing what that new council will look like or if the funds will continue at the end of the five years.
According to minutes of the prevention council’s May 8, 2020 meeting Redman told the council the status quo was not an option because of budget constraints and overlapping mandates with Wellbeing Waterloo Region.
Three options were presented by Redman at the time: shut down, reimagine the council’s work and potentially partner with Wellbeing Waterloo Region or leave the regional umbrella and receive two years of regional funding.
The crime prevention council reports directly to the regional chair.
The Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council was ignored when they pointed out that for 28 years, this community collaborative has been doing the very same work as the Community Safety and Well Being Framework (The WRCPC was once called the Waterloo Region Community Safety and Crime Prevention Council). The Crime Prevention Council was turned down when they applied to do the behind the scenes running of the Wellbeing organization. 18 months ago, the Region of Waterloo terminated the Executive Director and took over WRCPC. The community board no longer had any power.
In 2001, my first year on Regional Council, I ended up as a regional rep on the Waterloo Regional Crime Prevention Council. In this conservative community, I was surprised an arms-length community organization that promoted crime prevention though social development was funded by the Region of Waterloo.
The Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council (WRCPC) was an initiative core funded by the Region of Waterloo since 1994. Started by the late MP Andrew Telegdi, former Councillor Mark Yantzi, former Regional Chair Ken Seiling and Chief Larry Graville, among others, its work was rooted in a long history of restorative justice and community stewardship in Waterloo Region. Here is a list of accomplishments.
- First council of its kind in Canada that got to define what crime prevention through social development means, i.e. make the connection to other social issues such as poverty, homelessness, problematic substance use. The creation of root causes. Many other councils followed their model of government community partnership.
- Instrumental in starting the National Municipal Network on Crime Prevention www.safercities.ca that put Waterloo Region on the map (visitors from Japan, China, Norway, Mexico, many municipalities from across the country, the UN, and many more visited to get advice from the council and to visit many projects)
- Pulled significant funds into the Region for projects such as InReach (street gang prevention). A lot of corporations supported campaigns such as Say Hi, Look Deeper, Reach out.
- Working hard to get Naloxone into the hands of those who needed it.
- Authoring the first statistical report on the actual numbers of overdose deaths in Waterloo Region.
- Supporting neighbourhoods through engagement staff and such projects as Safe and Sound .
- Strong advocating in many areas of justice such as mandatory minimum sentences, safe schools legislation, and the opioid crisis.
- Supporting many community organizations throughout the years. Many of them were at the start up stage. For example: WAVYE (Waterloo region youth against violence everywhere), KW Coalition of Muslim women, African Caribbean network, Alliance for Children and Youth (now the Child and Youth Planning Table which remains at the Region).
- Hosting the Justice dinners that gave voice to many diverse issues
- Developing the Friend program and Porch Chats that mobilized the grass roots
- Starting the Upstream campaign, the course on Critical Reflections and the notion of “smart on crime” All of these are now mainstream
- Assessing annually public perceptions about crime and fear of crime which the municipalities used for planning
- Developing curriculum at Conestoga college for a degree in Community and Criminal Justice that is unique in the country
- Evaluating and researching the impact of COVID on domestic and intimate partner violence
- Speaking about sex trafficking prevention
- Researching and reporting for the community on issues of significance such as the gap analysis when it comes to violent offenders, the reintegration challenges for women from GVI
- Creating policy papers always based on community input such as the Integrated Drugs Strategy, the Breaking the Silence Against Violence Against the LGBTQ Community and Islamophobia,
But along with all these successes came controversy. This is particularly true concerning the opioid crisis. Promotion of Naloxone, a drug that when administered on the spot can stop death from an overdose, was met with foot dragging at other levels of government.
Complaints came to the Region from the province and the feds that the Council was too radical in their stance. Persistence paid off and now the drug and training on administering Naloxone is readily available. Lives have been saved.
I believe police and social services did not understand why an organization funded by the Chair’s office wasn’t under their control and was instead led by a community board. (Something that needs to be addressed as the Community Safety and Wellbeing Framework moves ahead with a lot of members from Region of Waterloo staff on its committees.)
Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council formed a community of practice; a place where people came for close to 30 years to make difficult discussions. A place where there was honest dialogue about what was happening in Waterloo Region. An organization that fostered change and got things done.
Praise for the Community Safety and Well Being Framework is lovely, but the proof will be if they actually follow up on the changes recommended for our community. The status quo is hard to move. Good luck to them.