Lack of police in Danforth concerns residents

[attach]2918[/attach]The resounding topic for those in attendance at a recent town hall meeting with local police was increased uniformed presence in their respective neighbourhoods.

At a 54 Division meeting held on Nov. 9 at the Legion Hall on Pape Avenue, residents packed the room to pose questions to Police Chief Bill Blair. Several elected officials were also in attendance,including outgoing Ward 29 councillor Case Ootes his successor Mary Fragedakis, as well as local reps Janet Davis and John Parker.

But rather than asking about hot topics like the G20 and gang activity,the crowd largely wanted to know about a seeming lack of police presence in local communities. Blair’s response was straightforward: he wants increased interaction between police and residents at the community level.

“It’s very easy to lose somebody’s trust, and it’s a struggle every day to maintain it,” Blair said, adding that building trust with police from a young age is a big factor in working at the community level.

Though crime rates are down across the city, Blair said it’s important to maintain that reduction.

“Break and enter, robbery, assault, violence and domestic violence — we’ve seen reductions in all these areas and I think that has a lot more to do with the work in the neighbourhoods,” he said. “We make it much harder to victimize others, we make it more likely to get caught and we help people respond in a way which changes the environment so it’s less likely that disorder and crime will take place in their neighbourhood.

“So we displace it, we disperse it and we reduce it.”

Members of the Community Police Liaison Committee spoke of the importance of community involvement and volunteering. co-chair of the CPLC, Mary Reilly, encouraged anyone interested in helping the community to get involved, which is how she got involved back in the1990s.

“The reason I did that is I think it’s really important that the community become engaged with the police in order (to ensure) that we have a safer community.”

The audience question period was not without its light-hearted moments.The crowd applauded when an elderly man commended police and spoke of his prior run-ins with the cops – a 50 cent ticket in 1930 for riding his bicycle without a licence, and a slightly pricier ticket for not wearing a seatbelt 10 years ago.

Blair has been attending local division town halls in an effort to address community concerns and questions.