Smart on Crime in Waterloo Region

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What I would love to hear in a Throne Speech in Ontario

As Kathleen Wynne assumes office as Ontario’s 25th premier the time has never been better for the Ontario government to overhaul and modernize its approach to crime prevention.

And that overhaul is long overdue.

The current model of crime prevention at the provincial level is a fragmented collection of silo-restricted programs and services with multiple competing interests and little coordination. In many respects it hinders and makes it more difficult for communities at the local level to effectively engage in crime prevention through social development.

It doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council offers a perfect case study into what can happen when disparate groups with unique mandates seek and find common ground -- thereby ensuring all appropriate forces are brought to bear on issues of common concern.

And what could be more important to a society than stopping crime – before it happens?

Adopting the WRCPC model of proactive mitigation at the provincial level would provide the government with a very simple, low cost solution to the current gridlock and would position Ontario as one of the world’s foremost “smart on crime” jurisdictions.

All it will take is some political will and an agreement among stakeholders that when it comes to fighting crime it’s far more effective to work together to prevent crime before it happens than to scramble in competition for scarce resources to clean up the mess after the fact.

To that end, the new Wynne government would be well served to move immediately in establishing a new Ontario Crime Prevention Secretariat (OCPS).

The OCPS would be staffed by experts seconded to the secretariat from government ministries that currently or would potentially develop policies and / or offer programs associated with addressing the root causes of crime.

This simple redeployment of existing resources could be accomplished with minimal new investment and would allow and facilitate a new administrative framework whose sole purpose would be ensuring elimination of A) inter-ministerial overlap, B) inter-ministerial competition and C) inter-ministerial lack of communication on crime prevention issues, policy development and program delivery.

If you look at the organizations comprising the multi-disciplinary Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council (which could very easily be termed the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Secretariat) it’s easy to see instant parallels with existing Ontario government ministries (all of which have a piece of the “root causes of crime” puzzle in one form or another).

The new OCPS could conceivably be comprised of staff seconded from any or all of the following government ministries (alphabetically):

  • Aboriginal Affairs
  • Attorney General
  • Children & Youth Services
  • Citizenship & Immigration
  • Community & Social Services
  • Community Safety & Correctional Services
  • Education
  • Health & Long Term Care
  • Health Promotion & Sport
  • Municipal Affairs & Housing
  • Seniors’ Secretariat
  • Training, Colleges & Universities
  • Women’s Directorate

Of course, taking this “secretariat” approach would also help the government more readily tackle the recommendations made by the Hon. Alvin Curling and the Hon. Justice Roy McMurtry in their “Roots of Youth Violence” report.

Unfortunately, this recommendation for an Ontario Crime Prevention Secretariat – while personally well received by past Ministers of Community Safety and Correctional Services – has never made it to the inner circles of government.

As Premier Wynne ushers in a new era in Ontario politics here’s hoping this proactive, cost-saving and “smart on crime” approach to crime prevention through social development finds its way to her desk and into government policy.


 
John Shewchuk is Chief Managing Officer of the Waterloo Catholic District School Board and a past Chair of the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council. John Shewchuk's article reflects his own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views or official positions of the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council.
 

Comments

Your suggestion makes perfect sense John, which may mean that it will never be enacted. Too often it seems that competing interests in government, and even within community agencies, create silos that protect their own turf. What is required then is honest self-reflection on the part of political leaders, bureaucrats and others in the field to thoughtfully examine their mandates and those of other ministries to determine which may be better suited to deliver proactive programming. This may require them to give up parts of their budgets to a new agency or secretariat and I fear that may be the sticking point. Given the current budget crunch changes such as you suggest must be seen to be budget neutral, if not cost-saving. Money, whether in government budgets or agency funding tends to mean power and influence. This is not always the case as you point out with the WRCPC which arguably has much more influence than its budget would suggest. So, there are bright spots.
Perhaps the first step to achieving the goal you've eloquently outlined, is to create a time-limited task force to examine the issue and make specific recommendations of dollars and programming. This task force would have representation from a number of sectors but will require a commitment from the Premier and Cabinet to act on its recommendations. Then again, it might just re-read the work done by Mr. Curling and Mr. McMurtry. It's not as if this issue hasn't been studied in the past. Thanks for reminding us of that.

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